Population Matters

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Population Matters
Population Matters logo.jpg
Founded 1991
Founder David Willey
Type Environmental charity, sustainability organization, think tank, advocacy group
Focus Promotion of smaller families and mindful consumption
Method Research, education, campaigning and lobbying
Key people
CEO, Simon Ross
Slogan for a sustainable future
Website populationmatters.org

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 both nationally and globally at a sustainable 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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

Population Matters is the largest population concern advocacy group in the UK. [14] With its members firmly believing that population can be stabilised tand then reduced without coercion,[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]

Send an Ecard[edit]

An option is given to choose one of five optional images which can then be sent via a webform. [17][1]

Overshoot Index[edit]

The Population Matters Overshoot Index presents assessments of the extent to which countries and regions of the world are considered to be able to support themselves on the basis of their own renewable resources.[18] The overshoot index is a submitted guidance document for use by the UK government International Development Committee [19] 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. [20] He has been vocal about the growing population problem in recent years and backs Population Matters in campaigning for a more sustainable future.[20][21]


The patrons are:[22]


A list of Population Matters board members can be found on the Population Matters website.[26]
The current chair is Roger Martin, former Deputy High Commissioner and environmentalist.[27]

Advisory Council[edit]

Population matters has an advisory council[28] 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.[29]


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.[26][30] It is then possible for members to express an interest in joining the board.[26]

The members page of the website gives a number of testimonies of people involved with the organisation.[30]


History of organisation[edit]

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."[31] 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.[31]

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.[31]

The organisation was granted charitable status on 9 May 2006.[32]

See also[edit]


  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". meetup.com. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  5. ^ "What Population Growth Means for Development". capacity4dev.eu. 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". www.populationmatters.org. 
  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. ^ "Send an e-card". Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  18. ^ "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. ... 
  19. ^ "International Development Committee Written evidence submitted by Population Matters". http://www.parliament.uk/. 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. 
  20. ^ a b "Sir David Attenborough backs campaign to limit human population". The Telegraph. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  21. ^ "Sir David Attenborough: Humans are a plague". The Express. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  22. ^ "Patrons". http://populationmatters.org/. 
  23. ^ "Attenborough warns on population". bbc.co.uk/. 
  24. ^ "David Attenborough to be patron of Optimum Population Trust, 9th June 2009". www.thetimes.co.uk. 
  25. ^ "Attenborough joins campaign to curb world's population". dailymail.co.uk. 
  26. ^ a b c "Board". http://www.populationmatters.org. Population Matters. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  27. ^ "Roger Martin". http://www.battleofideas.org.uk/. Retrieved 7 July 2014. 
  28. ^ "Council". www.populationmatters.org. Population Matters. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  29. ^ "Team". Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  30. ^ a b "Members". http://www.populationmatters.org/. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  31. ^ a b c "Story". http://populationmatters.org/. 
  32. ^ "Charities' Commission: Charity Number: 1114109". Charities' Commission. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 

External links[edit]