Thanks for a great year

OK, ‘great’ may be an overstatement given the ongoing coronavirus epidemic and generally awful environmental news. Yet here at TOP, we are grateful for the opportunity to study the impacts of overpopulation and advocate just means to address it. We’re grateful for your continued interest in and support for our work, some of which we summarize below for the year that has passed. And we’re grateful for your work; so many of our readers are busy with their own efforts to protect nature and create more just and sustainable societies. We hope you stay in touch in the new year, and that it’s a good one for you and all our fellow travelers on this beautiful, fragile world.

by The Overpopulation Project

During 2021, TOP continued our research and outreach on a wide variety of population issues. This work was made possible, in part, by generous financial support from Dan Carrigan and The GAIA Initiative for Earth-Human Balance, Laszlo Szombatfalvy, and Steve Warren. Phil was also supported by a sabbatical grant from Colorado State University, USA and a research grant from CSU’s philosophy department. If you would like to help fund TOP’s work, feel free to contact us.


Research publications

High-quality research is an important basis for informed action. During 2021, TOP members published or coauthored seven peer-reviewed papers on population-related issues:

Climate ethics and population policy: A review of recent philosophical work. Philip Cafaro. WIRES: Climate Change 12 (2021): e748 (1-17).

Discussing Population Concepts: Overpopulation is a Necessary Word and an Inconvenient Truth. Frank Götmark, Jane O’Sullivan, and Philip Cafaro. Indian Journal of Population and Development 1 (2021): 51-60.

Reconciling a Positive Ecological Balance with Human Development: A Quantitative Assessment. Lucia Tamburino and Giangiacomo Bravo. Ecological Indicators 129 107973 (2021):

Population Growth and Family Planning in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) made under the Paris Climate Agreement. Jenna Dodson and The Overpopulation Project. TOP Working Paper (2021).

Just Population Policies for an Overpopulated World. Philip Cafaro. Ecological Citizen (2021) 5: epub-046-1 (1-10).

Protecting Half the Planet and Transforming Human Systems Are Complementary Goals. Eileen Crist, Helen Kopnina, Philip Cafaro et al. Frontiers in Conservation Science (2021) 2: 781292 (1-9).

World scientists’ warnings into action, local to global. Phoebe Barnard, William Moomaw, Jane O’Sullivan et al. Science Progress (2021) 104 (4): 1-32.



In 2021 we produced 47 TOP blogs, often on topics ignored by mainstream media, many with detailed references for those who want to learn more about a topic. We continued to publish on perennially important topics, including population and climate change, population and biodiversity loss, the benefits of aging societies, ethical issues regarding population, and more. And our blogs generated many interesting discussions, with hundreds of online comments. Thanks to our readers for sharing your opinions.

In addition to contributions from the TOP team (Frank, Phil, Jane, Pernilla, Lucia and Carl) we are grateful to our external bloggers for providing complementary viewpoints from around the world: João Abegão, Leif Andersson, Malte Andersson, Gaia Baracetti, Larry Barnett, Roy Beck,  Gaurav Bhatt, Joe Bish, Alistair Currie, Johanna Deinum, Jan Greguš, Richard Grossman, Brian McGavin, Barbara Rogers, Susann Roth, Karen Shragg, Anders Sirén, Kelvin Thomson, Nicola Turner, Jan van Weeren,  Madeline Weld, and Anders Wijkman. This year we were particularly pleased with the wide geographical range of our blog contributors: from Italy to India, Sweden to Australia, Scotland to Portugal, Africa to Asia to North America.


New work

In addition to our blogs and publications, TOP initiated several efforts on new fronts. Frank and Nicola Turner, with a MSc thesis from the University of Gothenburg, have begun a significant effort to explore religion, fertility and family planning in Sub-Saharan Africa, the most rapidly growing region in the world. Initial results have been shared in a series of blog posts:

Religion, religiosity, fertility, and contraception in Sub-Saharan Africa – Part 1, Introduction to studies of religion. Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest degree of religiosity and highest fertility rate in the world. How important is religion and belief in the supernatural for family life, contraceptive use, fertility, and family size?

Religion and Fertility in Sub-Saharan Africa – Part 2, Differences Among Denominations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, many countries have a young population, a product of high fertility rates. Although there is variation among countries, a review of current research suggests broad and consistent differences in fertility rate among followers of different religions.

Religion, Religiosity, Fertility and Contraception in Sub-Saharan Africa – Part 3, A Study of Christian Denominations in Mozambique. How does affiliation with different Christian denominations influence fertility? In a study from a high-fertility area in Mozambique, two researchers examine fertility from two perspectives, dynamically and cumulatively.

Also in 2021, Phil premiered the first two seasons of The Population Factor, a new TV show airing on EarthX TV, an Internet TV network out of Dallas. All fourteen episodes of seasons one and two can be viewed on demand, online or on smart televisions. Show highlights include:

Season 1, episode 1, Introducing “The Population Factor.” A wide-ranging conversation with environmental legend, Paul Ehrlich, touching on the history of the IPAT equation, along with the history of population concerns and overpopulation denialism.

Season 1, episode 5, Solutions. Bill Ryerson, President of Population Media Center, and Karen Hardee discuss the paths forward toward smaller populations and a more sustainable world.

Season 2, episode 6, Are aging populations a problem? The case of Japan. Japan’s population is on track for a large decline if current demographic trends continue. We discuss the opportunities and challenges this generates with Peter Matanle, University of Sheffield.


As we enter a new year, TOP will continue to explore key aspects of the population / environment nexus. We welcome comments that can help improve our work; for instance, new ideas regarding website content, research topics, and outreach efforts. We also welcome donations and appreciate when friends and readers share our findings with others. Onward together toward a better future!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

5 thoughts on “Thanks for a great year

  1. Thanks for your excellent work and opportunity to comment on overpopulation issues, including “population density stress” and my free e-book PDF at HAPPY NEW YEAR

    1. Someone has just passed on their old kindle to me as he was given a new one for Christmas, and I look forward to christening it with your e-book. I also just stumbled across MHAB and have signed up for news from them. Were it not for pinpricks of light in the darkness like these (and above all Prof Cafaro’s efforts), 2022 would be looking dark and stormy indeed. Actually it is still looking dark and stormy, as it is going to take centuries for ecosystems to recover from humanity’s onslaught, even if there is a sudden collapse (as there always is after population blooms in other species). But that makes the occasional candle in the dark all the more welcome.
      I am also grateful to youtube’s algorithms for sending me another source of light – the Post-Doom interviews and talks hosted by Michael Dowd. I think he avoids the topic of Overpopulation – but he is so effective at describing its disastrous effects that it does not matter. I have been around environmentalists all my life, but I have never come across one so effective – or so trenchant – he even outshines the great Paul Ehrlich. His “bible” (apart from the Bible) is William R. Catton’s “Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change”, 1982. I had never heard of this book until now, so have not read it yet – but it strikes me that Dowd has moved beyond aiming to change our trajectory, and is preparing people for a Post-Doom world. It is so refreshing to come across someone who has given up trying to halt the inevitable collapse, and is instead discussing what to do afterwards, if anyone survives, and how not to repeat the mistakes that seem to be written into our DNA as a species. I know Fatalism is frowned on, but sometimes you do have to just accept your Fate and build on that Acceptance, if possible.

  2. Sometimes I make comments like the one below (mostly in Swedish fora). One third of the reactions are that we are not too many. “Population growth depends on increasing number of old people”. “Young people are needed to create a work force which is needed in the future”. “Not good that population implodes in some countries”, “Believe that creativity of humans and institutions will do what is needed”, “do you suggest genocide and murdering babies”, “what are your concrete suggestions?” (Given to demonize the suggestions given). Evidently projects like TOP has had an insufficient impact on the frequency of the denials of the overpopulation problem. Has TOP analysed what more the world could do to reduce the frequency of deniers of the overpopulation problem?

    “It is often claimed that almost two Earths are needed for sustainability today. But seldom accepted that a reduced population to near half is needed for sustainability. Focus is instead on predictions population growth stops in two decades”

  3. Det finns länder där populationen minskat påtagligt som Bulgarien och Kroatien. Skulle gärna läsa artiklar om hur befolkningsminskning kan ha påverkat (ökat?) levnadsstandard några år senare. Det borde bli mer resurser per innevånare. Det krävs mindre för att bibehålla infrastruktur per innevånare, vilket också borde märkas. Blir skolorna bättre när det blir färre elever? Vad har skett med “nöjdheten”? Jag tror att befolkningsminskning är bra och det verkar inte dåligt med stagnerande befolkningar men hur är det där befolkningarna faktiskt minskat påtagligt. Dessutom troligen huvudsakligen genom att den dugligaste arbetskraften emigrerat?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.