Population

green box with white text - #MoveTheDate 49 days populationIf every other family had one less child and motherhood was postponed by two years, by 2050 we would move Overshoot Day 49 days. *

Is it helpful to discuss population?

The United Nations projects that between 7.3 to 15.6 billion people will be living on Earth by 2100. Despite unevenness in our respective Footprints, as population increases, so does pressure on the planet. Powerful, people-positive solutions, such as empowering women and girls, are well known and promoted. And the social benefits are immediate and highly valuable in their own right. Ecological benefits manifest more slowly, yet the impact over time is massive.

However, population is a sensitive topic, full of taboos, prejudices, and a tragic, sordid history. The simple act of raising the topic may turn people off from the sustainability conversation altogether. At the same time, avoiding the population conversation does nothing to address one of the most significant contributors to humanity’s increasing demand on the planet. So, is it helpful to discuss population? We asked people around the world to share their thoughts on the topic, below.

red box with white text - SDG goal number 5 - Gender Equality
Investing in smaller families through the empowerment of women is core to “SDG 5 Gender Equality” which calls for ending all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere.

Population change starts with cultural change
By Vanessa Balintec
Population change is coming, just as cultural change is too – and there is no need to fear it if we can guide it in the way our species can best survive, thrive, and benefit from. Read More
Is talking about population anti-human?
By Genevieve Tarino
The discussion of population is often pinned as being ‘anti-human’. I disagree with this judgement and think quite the opposite. Read More
In order to make the change we need, we need empowered people.
By Sérgio Ribeiro
In order to make the change we need, we need empowered people. We need to work together to empower every single person on the planet to step forward and talk about population. Read More
Population growth mostly oppresses young girls and women
By Florence Blondel
If we don’t have the conversation about our growing numbers, we will be doing an injustice not only to nature but to the women who are mostly expected to ‘reproduce and fill the earth’. Read More
No es un secreto que estamos enfrentando una crisis de civilización
By Angie Nathalia Romero Gomez
Ahora, si vamos a hablar de población, hablemos de ella, y hablemos también de consumo. Y preguntémonos qué sociedades: tienen el mayor nivel de consumo, y por qué? Leer Más
Solving demographic problems is key to the human future
By Anne and Paul Ehrlich
It is population growth and overpopulation among the rich that is the prime driver behind a lethal situation for the entire world. Read More
Population is a loaded word
By Anonymous
To create lasting change, the best bet is to invest in the solution (women’s rights, healthcare and education) rather than engage in divisive public discourse on population trends. Read More
It is costly to avoid the subject of population
By Phil Fulton
While population is a sensitive topic as it touches taboo agendas across opposing political spectrums, it is costly to avoid from an economic standpoint. Read More
We need to initiate open debates
By Carolina Rodríguez Balda
The role of religious institutions is key, under a different approach that signals prevention rather than simply promoting abstinence, and the impacts this can have on the society. Read More
Arguing that the population is too small does not square away with the reality
By Thibaud Aronson
Let us not forget that fertility has already declined significantly across Africa in the last decades, it simply hasn’t done so as quickly as it has elsewhere. Read More
Vasudev Kutumbakam
By Rupal Verma
When I was young, my mom always used to recite to me the famous Sanskrit proverb “Vasudev Kutumbakam” meaning ‘The World is One Family.’ Read More
Education and Population Growth
By Esnath Divasoni

The trends in population growth can be changed through promotion of education, especially for girls. Read More

Population Connection
By Hannah Evans
When people, in particular women and girls, gain access to education, they also gain political, economic, and social power that benefits all. Read More
Should abortion be a part of the sustainability challenge?
By Erika M. Arias
Discussing population is not about pointing fingers or arguing who is most to blame, but about having an honest conversation about how we can all can thrive. Read More
We need to put human flourishing at the center, rather than economic growth
By Majka Baur
Maybe the question is how can we transcend the present paradigm and move towards a system where we put human flourishing at the center, rather than economic growth. Read More
Is there advantage to a shrinking population?
By Lilia Angelone
Is there an economic advantage for a country to grow its population or could a shrinking one have a competitive edge, particularly in times of global overshoot? Read More
Should we even discuss population?
By Brynn McGlinchey
When women are not provided with the reproductive healthcare that they deserve, the end result may be expanded families that contribute to overpopulation. Read More
Smaller population size alone does not guarantee a sustainable future
By Elizabeth Holloway
Lower population size alone will not guarantee a sustainable future. Read More
It is important to talk about population
By Jayani and Sathya
It is very important to talk about the population question in Sri Lanka, and in fact in whole of South Asian Region, in terms of sustainability. Read More
We need new formats to discuss [human demographics; population]
By Thomas Schinko
We – the global human community – have to design and proactively implement fundamental and transformative changes in every aspect of our lives. Read More
The population debate is complex
By Julian Willming
There is no way we can achieve environmental justice without fighting gender, racial and social justice, as well. Read More
Shifting the Population Debate
By Erin Bucchin
Population does coincide with a focus on womxn. Population decreases when womxn are granted the resources and ability to invest in their minds and their health. Read More
Moving past population control
By Lila Sheira
For starters, let us abolish the words population control from our vocabulary and aims for population restrictions and benchmarks from our agendas. Read More
Environmental sustainability and reproductive rights
By Céline Delacroix
It is exciting to know that we have a window of opportunity to improve reproductive rights and environmental sustainability ahead of us. Read More
Should Global Footprint Network discuss population?
By Mathis Wackernagel
As an organization, Global Footprint Network has been working to help shift the discussion around population in a compassionate and productive direction. Read More

Population Modeling

Population projections are difficult to model. If the world as a whole were to embrace reproductive rates similar to those of Germany, the Goa and Kerala provinces of India, Italy, Japan, Portugal, South Korea, Spain, or Thailand, there could be fewer than 4 billion people on the planet by 2100, even as longevity increases. Or less than 3 billion if we followed Taiwan’s rates. And none of these places have policies which place restrictions on reproduction.

Test the implications of fertility rates, age of mother, and mortality rates on future population sizes with our simple downloadable population model.

Population Voices

Given the complexity of the population conversation and the care needed to appropriately address the related historical injustices, we believe it is important to hear directly from others. In particular, we want to highlight the voices of individuals who work in population-related fields or at the intersection of health and environment. Additionally, it was important to us that we included the voices of people who may or may not have children yet. Most of all, we wanted to elevate the voices of people who are part of groups that have been marginalized or targeted in the past. As part of that effort, we have compiled a range of viewpoints and additional assessments, including Global Footprint Network’s view articulated by Founder and President Mathis Wackernagel.

Read more in our blog post “Empowering women for a world that works for all.”

Read more about the impact of population size on carbon emissions.

*NOTE: If we continued as now, we would be at 9.7 billion (the UN medium variant estimate).  If each mother had on average of 1.8 children, compared to 2.3 currently, and motherhood was delayed by 2 years, we’d be at 7.7 billion. Assuming Ecological Footprint per capita stays at 2020 level (2.47 gha per person), the difference in 2050 would be 49 days.

Schneider Electric Case Study: Women Entrepreneurship Program Brazil

Climate change has a greater impact on those sections of the population, in all countries, that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond to natural hazards. Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.

How will you #MoveTheDate?

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crowd of people in street with green overlay and white text "I start a population conversation

Girl Power: Camfed’s answer

One of the most powerful yet overlooked opportunities for tackling resource constraints and mitigating climate change is girls’ education. Read more about Camfed’s inspiring story.

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