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Population Matters

Population Matters
File:Population Matters logo.jpg
Founded Template:If empty
Founder David Willey
Type Environmental charity, sustainability organization, think tank, advocacy group
Focus Promotion of smaller families and mindful consumption
Template:If empty
Method Research, education, campaigning and lobbying
Key people
CEO, Simon Ross
Template:If empty
Slogan for a sustainable future
Formerly called
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Population Matters, formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust,[1] is a think tank, and campaign group expressing what it describes as population concern regarding impacts of population growth on long term sustainability, quality of life and the natural environment, specifically natural resources, climate change, and biodiversity.


The Optimum Population Trust was launched in 1991 and Population Matters was adopted as a campaign name in 2011.[1] Population Matters carries out research on climate change, energy requirements, biodiversity, and other environmental and economic factors in relation to population numbers.[2] It campaigns for population stabilisation and gradual decrease to sustainable levels for both the world and the United Kingdom.

Population Matters campaigns to stabilise population at the national and global level with a focus on initiating a culture shift towards smaller family sizes in the UK and improving resources for women's empowerment programmes and family planning in lower income countries.[3] With the vision of reducing populations voluntarily in order to enable acceptable quality of life and protection of wildlife and the environment,[4] Population Matters states that its intermediate aims are: improved provision of family planning and sex education, better education and rights for women, and that couples voluntarily "have two or fewer". For the UK specifically, it advocates greater effort to reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancy and unintended pregnancy and that immigration be brought into balance with emigration.

Population concern

A recent study conducted by a graduate from the London School of Economics and sponsored by Population Matters, found that in the past 30 years, increasing population size (driven by high fertility rates) was the primary reason behind the number of people living in poverty across the 20 highest fertility nations, despite more people in these countries receiving aid.[5] In addition to this, Population Matters has stated that continued growth has been affecting living standards of people of the UK, particularly in the South East of England and London.[6][7] The benefits of moderating population size are not limited to raising living standards and general environmental protection. In 2009, Population Matters issued a study asserting that contraception was also the cheapest way of combating climate change.[8]

A concept of population concern is presented as being: "fundamentally a concern about the balance between human needs and the resources available to meet those needs, now, and for the foreseeable future."[9]

Population Matters is openly concerned that the planet may not be able to support more than half of its present numbers before the end of the century. [11] In a recent survey commissioned by Population Matters, it was found that the majority of people surveyed shared these concerns, with four out of five (84%) thinking that the world population was too high and over half (53%) thinking that world population was much too high.[12]

Aims and goals

Summary of aims

The organisation's stated intermediate aims are: improved provision of family planning and sex education; better education and rights for women and the encouragement that couples voluntarily "have two or fewer" children.

For the UK specifically, it further advocates greater effort to reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancy and unintended pregnancy and for immigration to be brought into balance with emigration.

Policy goals

(a paraphrase of Population Matters' 'Full policy goals' is as follows):

Population Matters "recommend that the following should be taken into consideration":[13]   1, an acknowledgement of population growth as one of the factors that increases damage to the environment in a way that reduces everyone’s share of natural resources;   2, the achievement of a stable and ethically acceptable transition to a sustainable population;   3, an acknowledgement that an overall number of carbon emitters increases with all population growth;& 4, an improved provision of family planning and sex education;   5, an empowerment of women both generally and specifically in relation to decisions concerning family size;   6, a support of developing countries towards sustainable development and population stabilisation;   7, an official acknowledgement that it's in the interest of all to stabilise our numbers and then to reduce them by voluntary means to a sustainable level; 8, a reduction in unplanned pregnancies supported by better sexual health and relationships education, and by a well funded contraceptive services for all people including adolescents;   9, a minimisation of one country's dependence on the resources of other countries which, in the case of high population, high consumption countries, would be partly achieved through the country's limitation of its immigration rate to the level of its emigration rate;   10, a local meeting of labour demands in high population nations rejecting a case of more young people being required to care of an increasing elderly population so as to avoiding an ecological pyramid in which each generation impoverishes the next;   11, individuals considering how many children they have within tax and benefits systems that balance reproductive rights with social responsibilities;   12, a high level of focus being given to a population policy implementation by senior politicians.

Campaigns and initiatives

Population Matters is the largest population control advocacy group in the UK. [14] With its members firmly believing that population can be brought under control without forcible strategies,[15] Population Matters actively campaigns for sustainable population size in the UK and overseas[16] and raises awareness about overpopulation, encouraging and enabling people to opt for a smaller family size.[15]

Population petition

The Population Matters population petition is introduced by the following text:

"Sign our population petition

Human numbers are an important contributor to issues of sustainability and the environment. With world population set to rise by two billion by 2050, we believe the planet can’t take many more people.


I support Population Matters' call for governments to adopt policies intended to cause populations to stabilise and then gradually to decrease through voluntary means to an environmentally sustainable level."

A webform then follows.[17][1]

Send an Ecard

An option is given to choose one of five optional images which can then be sent via a webform. [18][2]

Pledge two or fewer

The Population Matters' "Pledge two or fewer" campaign refers to a pledged limit to the number of children that a person intends to have.[19] Chairman of Population Matters, Roger Martin, has previously stated that the rationale for the pledge is that "For the average family, it is a fact and not an opinion that, by having a third child, they will increase the global population, and therefore increase global pressure on the environment and decrease everyone’s share of the natural resources on which we ultimately depend to survive." He has explained that the majority of people in higher income countries have a choice when it comes to planning their family whereas many people in the lowest income countries simply do not have the luxury of that choice.[20]

After a request to consider how many children to have (presented in terms of it being "the biggest environmental decision you will ever make") four reasons are cited for choosing a smaller family: "Gender equity... Quality of life... Quality of parenting... Quality of childhood..."[21]

The "pledge two or fewer" web page is introduced with the following text:

"Unless we act, there will be at least another two billion people on the planet by 2050.

By having a smaller family — not having a child or having just one or two instead of three or more — you can help to slow and then reverse population growth. And by reversing population growth, we’d all be taking a big green step towards a more sustainable future.


I'm going to try to have two or fewer children."

A webform then follows.[22][3]

Related comment:

“Should we now explain to UK couples who plan a family that stopping at two children, or at least having one less than first intended, is the simplest and biggest contribution anyone can make to leaving a habitable planet for our grandchildren?”[23] John Guillebaud – medical doctor, academic, patron of Population Matters

Overshoot Index 2011

The Population Matters Overshoot Index 2011 presents assessments of the extents to which countries and regions of the world are considered to be able to support themselves on the basis of their own renewable resources.[24] The overshoot index is a submitted guidance document for use by the UK government International Development Committee [25] for Millennium Development Goal related decision making.


Probably the most famed patron of Population Matters is naturalist David Attenborough, who has been outspoken in his advocacy for the cause for many years. [26] He has been vocal about the growing population problem in recent years and backs Population Matters in campaigning for a more sustainable future.[26][27]


The patrons are:[28]


A list of Population Matters board members can be found on the Population Matters website.[32]
The current chair is Roger Martin, former Deputy High Commissioner and environmentalist.[33]

Advisory Council

Population matters has an advisory council[34] composed of:


A list of Population Matters team members, which may be composed of both staff and volunteers, can be found on the Population Matters website.[35]


Members pay a subscription and are considered as being "supporter members". Supporter members receive publications but have no automatic entitlement to vote. Voting privileges are given to active supporter members who apply and who are not known to have a negative political affiliation.[32][36] It is then possible for members to express an interest in joining the board.[32]

The members page of the website gives a number of testimonies of people involved with the organisation.[36]


History of organisation

The organisation makes note of its UK predecessors: The Malthusian League (1877); The Simon Population Trust (1957); The Conservation Society (1966) and Population Concern (1974) an organisation that ultimately merged with Plan UK in 2013.[9]

The Optimum Population Trust was founded in 1991 by the late David Willey and others. "They were impelled to act by the failure of UK governments to respond to a series of recommendations regarding population growth and sustainability."[37] Their goals were to collect, analyse and disseminate information about the sizes of global and national populations and to link this to a study of carrying capacities and inhabitants’ quality of life in order to support policy decisions.[37]

The organisation prepared analyses and lobbied on issues affected by population growth, including welfare, education, labour supply, population ageing, immigration and the environment. It also lobbied developmental and environmental campaigners on the need to incorporate population issues in their thinking.[37]

The organisation was granted charitable status on 9 May 2006.[38]

Population related commentators through time

Here is a chronologically compiled list of people that have made notable population related comments that have been posted by Population Matters:[39]

Stasinos poet, Confucius philosopher, Aristotle philosopher, Tertullian theologian, Niccolò Machiavelli writer, Richard Hakluyt writer, James Madison US President, Thomas Malthus clergyman, scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson writer, John Stuart Mill philosopher, Arnold Toynbee economic historian, Bertrand Russell philosopher, Max Born physicist, Albert Einstein physicist, Helen Keller author, activist, lecturer, John Maynard Keynes economist, Jawaharlal Nehru Prime Minister of India, Aldous Huxley writer, Paul VI Pope, Lyndon B Johnson US President, Peter Scott founder of WWF, Kenneth Boulding economist, Jacques Cousteau conservationist, Sam Levenson humourist, Richard M. Nixon US President, Norman Borlaug “father” of Green Revolution, Robert McNamara President of World Bank, Christian de Duve biologist, Spike Milligan comedian, James Lovelock environmentalist, Pete Seeger musician, Digby McLaren geologist, Isaac Asimov author, Prince Philip Royal consort, James P. Grant UN Under-Secretary-General, Albert Bartlett physicist, George H.W. Bush US President, Gore Vidal writer, Queen Elizabeth II British monarch, David Attenborough naturalist, Günter Grass author, Bernard Chidzero economist and politician, Maurice Strong UN Under-Secretary-General, Martin Luther King clergyman, activist, Douglas Hurd UK Foreign Secretary, Crispin Tickell environmentalist, Aubrey Manning zoologist, Karan Singh politician, Paul Ehrlich biologist, Baroness Flather politician, Jane Goodall conservationist, Norman Myers environmentalist, Tenzin Gyatso 14th Dalai Lama, George Carey Archbishop, Morgan Freeman actor, Jane Fonda actor, activist, Kofi Annan UN Secretary-General, Margaret Atwood novelist, David King chemist, Partha Dasgupta economist, Stephen Hawking physicist, Michael Palin comedian, Helen Mirren actor, Joanna Lumley actor, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid UN Under-Secretary-General, Ian Angus socialist, Sara Parkin activist, politician, Michael Buerk journalist, Hillary Rodham Clinton US Secretary of State, John Gray philosopher, Al Gore US Vice President, Jeremy Irons actor, Babatunde Osotimehin UN Under-Secretary-General, Richard Branson business leader, John Guillebaud medical doctor, academic, Jonathon Porritt environmentalist, Barbara Stocking Chief Executive: Oxfam, Bob Geldof musician, Fred Pearce environmental writer, Jon Shanklin meteorologist, Baroness Amos UN Under-Secretary-General, Bill Gates business leader, Bill Nye educator, Goodluck Jonathan President of Nigeria, Lionel Shriver author, Kate Humble television presenter, Jeanette Winterson author, Adrian Hayes polar explorer, Rupert Everett actor, James Gasana agriculture minister, Stephen Emmott scientist, Chris Packham naturalist, George Monbiot writer, Dan Brown author, Boris Johnson politician, Guy Pearce actor, Ashley Judd actor, Julia Bradbury presenter, Cameron Diaz actress and Prince William Duke.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Optimum Population Trust". UK Web Archive. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  2. ^ "Optimum Population". Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  3. ^ "Why current population growth is costing us the Earth". The Guardian. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Breaking the Taboo about Human Population Growth a talk by Population Matters". Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "What Population Growth Means for Development". European Commission. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  6. ^ "UK population rises 400,00 to 64m". Yorkshire Post. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  7. ^ "UK population increases by 400,000". Belfast Telegraph. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  8. ^ "'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change'". The Telegraph. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Population concern". 
  10. ^ Scott, Peter (1966). in The Eye of the Wind: An Autobiography,. London: Hodder and Stoughton. ISBN 0340215151. 
  11. ^ "Sir David Attenborough backs campaign to limit human population". The Telegraph. 4 April 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Population Growth and Migration". Independence Educational Publishers. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Full policy goals". Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  14. ^ "Population Matters: We are "Plague of Locusts"". National Review Online. 24 January 2013. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Population Control: the last great environmental taboo?". Vabishingspecies. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  16. ^ "The pressure is on for public services as the UK's population reaches 64 Million". The Express. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  17. ^ "Sign our population petition". Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  18. ^ "Send an e-card". Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  19. ^ "Cut childcare costs by having fewer children, says Population Matters". Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  20. ^ "Population Overload". Focus Science and Technology. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  21. ^ "Have a small family". Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  22. ^ "Pledge two or fewer". Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  23. ^ "Limit families to two children 'to combat climate change'". Telegraph newsgroup. 
  24. ^ "Overshoot Index 2011" (PDF). The Overshoot Index assesses the extent to which a country can support itself from its own renewable resources, by measuring current per capita consumption against per capita biocapacity. ... 
  25. ^ "International Development Committee Written evidence submitted by Population Matters". The attached Overshoot Index shows that all the developed countries except six (Canada, Australia, Russia, New Zealand, Sweden and Finland) are already ecologically overshot; and for instance, every additional Briton has the carbon footprint of 22 more Malawians. However it is equally important that developing countries, eg in the Sahel where rapidly increasing numbers of farmers and herdsmen are competing increasingly violently for rapidly diminishing amounts of soil, water and vegetation, should monitor both population and resources. 
  26. ^ a b "Sir David Attenborough backs campaign to limit human population". The Telegraph. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  27. ^ "Sir David Attenborough: Humans are a plague". The Express. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  28. ^ "Patrons". 
  29. ^ "Attenborough warns on population". 
  30. ^ "David Attenborough to be patron of Optimum Population Trust, 9th June 2009". 
  31. ^ "Attenborough joins campaign to curb world's population". 
  32. ^ a b c "Board". Population Matters. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  33. ^ "Roger Martin". Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  34. ^ "Council". Population Matters. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  35. ^ "Team". Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  36. ^ a b "Members". Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  37. ^ a b c "Story". 
  38. ^ "Charities' Commission: Charity Number: 1114109". Charities' Commission. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  39. ^ "Quotation". 

External links