A Proposal for a United Nations Framework Convention on Population Growth

Harding, Rob | February 1, 2018 | Leave a Comment Download as PDF

The United Nations Meeting Room by Keith Burns | Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


Recently, an international assembly of scientists from 184 countries endorsed an article published in the journal Bioscience entitled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice”. As the warning states, “We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats. By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.”

Further, this 2016 article published in the Chinese Journal of Population Resources and Environment presents an instructive discussion of why population growth remains largely unacknowledged as a primary driver behind such threats. And this 2010 article published in The Globalist introduces then dissects ‘Ponzi Demography’, asserting that “the sooner nations reject Ponzi demography and make the needed gradual transition from ever-increasing population growth to population stabilization, the better the prospects for all of humanity and other life on this planet.”

As Population Media Center’s President Bill Ryerson asserts, population is the multiplier of everything else. Such knowledge demands action to protect life on Earth in a compassionate and intentional manner. People are receptive to this inclusive message. It compels us to act together.

I propose the establishment of a United Nations Framework Convention on Population Growth –one akin to the Paris Agreement for climate change with Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in pursuit of a sustainable population in every country.

In effect, such a treaty would formalize what was presented in the preamble of the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development: “The recommendations for action are made in a spirit of consensus and international cooperation, recognizing that the formulation and implementation of population policies is the responsibility of each country and should take into account the economic, social, and environmental diversity of conditions in each country, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of its people, as well as the shared but differentiated responsibilities of all the world’s people for a common future.”

Thomas Paine wisely asserted that “time makes more converts than reason”, yet we are running out of time to act without, as the original World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity stated in 1992, “the risk that vital global systems will be damaged beyond repair”. This is why I believe the time to act boldly on population is now, and I think the United Nations is the appropriate avenue.

Summary of current activity

I have shared the proposal for this treaty with hundreds of people around the world so far and there is currently support from NGOs, scientists, academics, and/or activists in at least 10 countries across 5 continents. I’m also already in communication with the United Nations via UNEP, the UN Foundation, and the Harmony with Nature programme, and seeking input from leaders at UNFPA, UN Women, and the UN Population Division.

I was recently nominated for one of the United Nations SDG Action Challenge Awards –specifically, the ‘Connector’ award– for my efforts to catalyze support for this initiative, and I will be attending the related Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development in Bonn, Germany in March 2018 to showcase this proposal and mobilize additional support.

The proposal

Goal: To catalyze an international campaign that leads to the UN establishing a Framework Convention on Population Growth. Further, the goal I have in mind is to present a joint international position statement with signatory organizations and/or individuals representing countries from every inhabited continent to the UN in 2018 prior to COP24 and UNEA-4.

Note: I plan to attend the 2018 meeting of the UN’s Commission on Population and Development in April 2018 and am seeking fellow supporters to join me.

Context: Several environment-related international treaties exist today, yet none of them address the root cause of our oversized demands on the planet: human overpopulation. Every country deserves a voice at the table and this would provide them that opportunity.

We as a global community can’t view the UN’s population growth projections as destiny — 9.8 billion people in the year 2050 should be viewed as wholly unacceptable if we’re keeping future generations and other species as well as our own livelihoods in mind. The earth simply can’t support this. We are choosing short-term aggregate economic growth over long-term environmental, economic, political, social, and cultural stability, putting the future habitability of the entire planet in jeopardy. We know this is true and such knowledge demands action.

My thought is, if we can get human overpopulation + continued growth to be formally recognized by the UN as a global issue that must be addressed via national population policies (like the NDCs for the Paris Agreement), then people around the world will become more amenable to openly discussing local population matters, such as unintended pregnancy rates, sexuality education programs, access to family planning information and services, and migration, as well as foreign aid and economic justice.

Vision: My vision for the UN treaty is that it would formally recognize existing human overpopulation + continued growth –within the context of the IPAT formula– as a significant environmental issue and existential threat to the survival of humanity (one of several, to be sure). It would also promote a 3-pronged solution at national and international levels to achieve the goal of sustainable populations in every country.

3-pronged solution:

(1) Emphasize education about the issue of existing human overpopulation + continued growth, including why it poses an existential threat and why embracing small families to achieve a global TFR below 2.0 for the foreseeable future is an essential component of the solution.

(2) Prioritize the “ease of access” model of fertility decline, which appears to fit every country’s situation and addresses the goals of rapid fertility decline followed by sustained sub-replacement fertility rates by way of freedom to make informed family size choices, not coercion.

(3) Promote smaller “normal” family sizes –we need to establish a new normal for the Anthropocene.

Underlying this 3-pronged solution are the 5 principles presented in this paper written by Population Matters Director Robin Maynard. The 5 principles are (1) Universality, (2) Proportionality, (3) Equity, (4) Equality, and (5) Choice.

For all 3 elements of the solution, Population Media Center President Bill Ryerson’s essay from the 2010 Post Carbon Reader Series as well as former Worldwatch Institute President Bob Engelman’s 9 strategies to stop short of 9 billion provide excellent context.

Top reasons for pursuing a treaty through the UN

(1) To tell the story, the “whole truth” about human overpopulation

Great opportunity to tell the human overpopulation story, to share the story with a global audience including world leaders and members of the general public, and to publicly and formally assert that human overpopulation is solvable by embracing small families* for the foreseeable future.

(2) To bring the term “overpopulation” and the existing reality of human overpopulation into the mainstream

The UN is recognized globally as a lawful, mainstream international governing body. Formal UN recognition of existing human overpopulation and the solution of embracing small families* could help legitimize the issue and the solution in the eyes of world leaders as well as members of the general public.

(3) To make national population policies necessary and politically expedient

The Paris Agreement has helped apply pressure on governments and the private sector to “act on climate change”. Efforts to date have been somewhat misguided since they are focused on “downstream” issues, and that’s precisely why our cause could benefit from having a similar international accord –hopefully one that is universally ratified– that prioritizes action specifically on human overpopulation and highlights the clear, compassionate solution: embracing small families*. As our colleague Karen Shragg likes to say, if we don’t act on overpopulation then all of our other efforts will never be enough.

* It’s worth noting that I do not believe this treaty should be overly prescriptive about particular family sizes. I’m including a “1 child, on average” clarification to describe what constitutes a small family as a prudent guideline given the depth of overshoot we’re already in. While I’m envisioning this as a non-legally binding international accord, it seems like it’s high time that we explicitly encourage those family size decisions that will most benefit our shared cause within a reasonable time horizon given the other existential threats we currently face. The “1 child, on average” clarification takes into account the (at least narrowly) accepted notion that 0 children is fine, 1 child is good, and 2 children is enough.


The specific language used in the treaty (and even preliminary documents as the campaign grows) will likely make or break this initiative. Population size and growth are understandably sensitive issues, and to ignore this is likely to accept failure. Fortunately, I don’t have any deep ties to particular terms (e.g. overpopulation) and have no issue challenging those that do. I want big results (as we all do), and the language that will best allow us to get there with a mutual understanding among all member states is the language we should use. Winning some “battles” should not be misinterpreted as winning the “war”. Winning the “war” is the focus of this initiative, which I believe will be achieved by breaking the mainstream silence on human overpopulation and the resultant overshoot compassionately.

What you can do to help

  • Spread the word. If you like this proposal and believe it is important, please share this article with your colleagues and peers. We need all hands on deck.
  • Contact me. I welcome your feedback and would be thrilled to discuss this in more detail.
  • Reach out to the United Nations to voice your support and urge them to help advance this initiative. Specifically, consider contacting the Global Director of the UN SDG Action Campaign, Mr. Mitchell Toomey, at support@sdgactioncampaign.org, and reference the Connector Award for which I have been nominated. As a suggestion, also consider referencing this 2016 article by Joseph Chamie, former director of the United Nations Population Division, which highlights the importance of pursuing world population stabilization as a prerequisite for achieving universally adopted sustainable development goals.

Rob Harding is a Great Transition Initiative Champion, a signer of The Ecological Citizen’s Statement of Commitment to Ecocentrism, and the Sustainability Communications Manager at NumbersUSA. For more information about this organization, including specific objectives and statement of values, see this page in their website. The author can be contacted at rdharding2@gmail.com.

This article was originally published in Vol. 14 No. 2 of Mother Pelican: A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability on February 1, 2018. You can access the original article on their website.

The MAHB Blog is a venture of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere. Questions should be directed to joan@mahbonline.org

MAHB Blog: https://mahb.stanford.edu/blog/un-framework-population/

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The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • César Emilio Valdivieso París

    Greetings friends of MAHB. Here is a proposal that might be of interest to you:
    Despite the high quality of life that some of the so-called developed nations have achieved, the truth is that the world, considered as a group of countries located in a fragile and geographically limited biosphere, is threatened with extinction due to human conflicts and the depredation of the environment.
    Notwithstanding the good and very important actions taken by groups and individuals in favor of a better world, deterioration at all levels continues to increase dangerously.
    After more than thirty years dedicated to these matters, and since “an image is worth a thousand words” we have come up with a novel idea of designing a self-sufficient and sustainable model city that has all the characteristics of infrastructure and organization inherent to the peaceful and sustainable society that we want for ourselves and our descendants, whose representation in the form of scale models, animated series, feature films, video games and theme parks, would constitute a model to follow to generate the necessary changes.
    The prototype that we present has some characteristics that are opposed, sometimes in a radical way, to the religious, economic, political and educational traditions and customs that have been transmitted from generation to generation, yet are the causes of the aforementioned problems, and therefore must be transformed.
    If you are interested in knowing about this project, or even participating in it, we invite you to visit our website https://elmundofelizdelfuturo.blogspot.com/ (written in Spanish and English), where we are working in that sense.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Ioannes Paulus PP. II


    “The unforgiveable sins this earth must confront and overcome are
    Nationalism, capitalism, and hoarding. The idea of every nation
    should be forgot, price should be struck from the commons, and
    princes should be seen for the devils they are. The sins include
    our church, secret societies, and other religions which make of
    the spirit of God a divide.”

    Last rites declaration of Ioannes Paulus PP. II (Karol Wojtyla)
    2nd April 2005

  • Pinkcityroyals India1

    I meet so many that think population growth is a major problem in regard to climate change. But the number of children born per year in the world has stopped growing since 1990. The total number of children below 15 years of age in the world are now relatively stable around 2 billion.
    Read more at:

    • Rob Harding

      International migration from lower-emitting countries to higher-emitting countries must also be considered re: problematic impacts on climate disruption. Also, in your comment you appear to be highlighting a stable rate of annual growth (as opposed to no growth) which means more people are still being added every year. This is a problem with respect to climate disruption, among other aspects of our current overshoot predicament.

  • Karen Pitts

    The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reflecting births as of the year ending in September 2017, shows the total fertility rate at 1.77 lifetime births per woman, down 3.8 percent since 2015, and down 16.4 percent since its most recent peak at 2.12 in 2007.

    A key factor is that marriage is increasingly being postponed.

    As millennials in particular take their time to pair up, the average age of first birth is rising steadily. Today, the average age of a woman at first birth is over 26 years old. And while that is much higher than in the past, many European countries have an average age of first birth
    over 30, so there seems a lot more room to rise. In fact, the United States has the youngest age of first childbirth of any developed country.

    Unmarried births are falling, too. Wider usage of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) is especially helping unmarried women avoid unintended pregnancy.

    The gap between the number of children that women say they want to have (2.7) and the number of children they will probably actually have (1.8) has risen to the highest level in 40 years.

    Americans across many ages and marital statuses are having less sex than they used to. The share of people 18 to 30 who have not had sex in the past year has risen to nearly 20 percent
    today, from about 10 percent between 1990 and 2010.

    Diminished face-to-face interaction, and possibly increased use of pornography, may explain the fall in sex, and both of those trends may be explained by the rise in cellphone usage and other screen time.


  • Malcolm Potts

    We need a simple message with one priority. The message is to meet the unmet need for family planning. In the Sahel, where my focus is at present, there is a low contraceptive prevalence rate and the most rapid population growth in the world. However, there are still more women with an unmet need for contraception (who say they never want another child or don’t want one for the next two year) than are using contraception.

    The priority should be to double the current international investment in family planning. Currently, only one percent of overseas aid as measure by OECD goes into family planning. As doubling it would not undermine any other aspects of development, it should be politically achievable.

    There remains a deep and dangerous intellectual divide between those who maintain ‘development is the best contraceptive’ and those, like myself, who believe ‘contraception is the best development.’

    One thing that needs to be understood more widely is that those who hold that development is the contraceptive may find themselves confronted, as was Indira Gandhi, with a situation where a poor country with rapid population growth cannot develop. Inevitably, development is the best contraceptive leads to coercion.

    Contraception is the best development is the paradigm of choice and dignity. Let’s shout it from the roof tops.

    • stevenearlsalmony

      It is particularly reassuring to have Malcolm Potts involved in this discussion. He provides us with an original, deep-structure grasp of “the world problematique” we are striving to adequately recognize, sensibly understand, competently address, and intentionally overcome by restoring Earth to the condition we received it.

    • Rob Harding

      Thanks very much for your comment, Malcolm. Both the message and the priority you shared are core elements of this proposal. From our recent communications, it seems that John Seager would agree with your assertion that the priority should be to (at least) double the current international investment in family planning. The intent of bringing formal recognition to these issues by way of a narrowly-focused international treaty would be to help spur adequate focus, funding, and education.

      I hope commenter Ray Kowalchuk reads your excellent comment. Indeed, contraception is the best development. Wise words, Malcolm. Thank you for sharing.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Welcome aboard, Malcolm. It does seem certainly true that “contraception is the best development,” and of course that implies that in the third world dealing with the powerful forces (patriarchy, religion, myths) inhibiting or prohibiting their use is the battle to be won, one nation at a time. I think you’d agree that the UN has never been the most effective tool for achieving this because of the wide cultural disparities among its members.

      It seems there are two other “dangerous intellectual divides” that need to be bridged and evidence of which is found many places in the commentary following this article. One is the divide between the internationalists who understand that individual nations (or federations like the EU) have an absolute right to control immigration into their countries and one variety of utopian globallists who say (usually via vague euphemisms) individual nations do not have that right.

      The second, more cynical variety of globalist are those plutocrats who think nations have the right to control immigration flows but want legal immigration and guest worker quotas greatly increased because that will greatly increase the coffers of many managerial elites, with the rest of us picking up the tab for all the downsides.

      My 2000 piece on “The Globalist Copout” (http://www.thesocialcontract.com/artman2/publish/tsc1003/article_675.shtml) spelled out these distinctions in blunt terms as many others have done so with more refinement.

      Would be interested to have your opinion on the core of Harding’s initiative, which is not to recommend or dictate population (family planning, immigration, etc.) policies but simply to get wide international agreement that overpopulation is a problem and that every country has the right to develop its own explicit national population policies and should do so. Many people on both sides of the divides in the US and elsewhere should be able to agree on that much.

      There are of course many powerful interests who will oppose even such a modest initiative, as well as many others who will just demand that such initiatives are a waste of time unless we propose to throw out the whole world “socio-politico-economic system at the same time.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Dear Peter Fiekowsky, If you please, articulate a bit more about the arrangements that have been made thus far to convene a Climate Restoration Conference. Thank you.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Perhaps a capacity for experience leads me to want to know not only what is happening, but also why things are happening as they are. When I look out through my eyeballs I see things, see what is presented before my eyes. Whatsoever is IS, is it not? The participants in this discussion can often come to agreement on what is happening, on what is the problem. For example, we can agree that the current colossal scale and expected growth of the human population on a planet with size, composition and ecology of Earth present humanity with a very serious problem. If we are going to develop a reality-oriented plan of action that responds ably to this problem, first we need to understand why human problem numbers have become such a fearsome problem in our time. The clinician in me says the failure to find an accurate enough diagnosis for a problem leads to a ‘treatment’ failure. That is to say, before we can attempt to solve our population growth problem, we have to understand why human numbers are skyrocketing. Why? WHY? are absolute global human population numbers exploding now here? If we do not obtain an accurate diagnosis of our problem, we run the risk of confusing a symptom of the problem with its actual cause. Symptom treatment may look attractive, feel good and be temporarily soothing, but it does not sensibly address the problem. And if we fail to determine the actual cause of the problem before our eyes, how can we reasonably be expected to overcome it? We must determine the root cause of what ails us, I suppose, in order to effectively solve the wicked problem unbridled human population growth poses to humankind, life as we know it, and Earth as a fit place for future habitation.

  • Karen Gaia

    The main reason progress has been so slow is because funding for family planning has been woefully inadequate. 9 billion is needed and only 4-5 billion is provided. The United States has consistently underfunded its share (less than 1% of the U.S. budget) throughout these two decades. Each time the Republicans come into power, they impose the Global Gag Rule, which, in effect, makes it impossible for many NGOs to receive funding for family planning services either because of the heavy red tape involved in reassuring the US gov’t that they don’t have anything to do with abortion, or because they provide a complete array of reproductive health services, which might provide abortion. The Republicans also refuse to fund the UNFPA, which provides vital reproductive health services to many parts of the world.

    This going back-and-forth between Global Gag Rule and no global gag rule has caused confusion and additional expenses to NGOs, which means less family planning services for women with unmet need.

    What is the reason that funding is inadequate? Just Google the words Population Control, and you will find the answer. There are just too many of you ‘population control’ folks who fail to promote voluntary family planning and reproductive health as the answer, and too many religious folks that believe that contraception is a sin, so that the conclusion is that ‘population control’ is an effort to use forced abortions or forced sterilizations to wipe out brown-skinned people.

    And policies that target family size have produced atrocities like the mass sterilization camps in India in 2014 where 12 women died after botched operations. India has had a history of family size targets, and I contend, that if India had instead followed the Cairo Plan of Action, their fertility rate would have been much lower now. Women in India are suspicious of contraception like the pill, and until 2016, have used sterilization as the main form of birth control. This means they wait until they have a son and at least two children before they submit to sterilization. Remember, India is the second largest country in the world and contributes mightily to the population of the world, despite the fact that 40% of its children are undernourished. And China had the One Child policy, but compare China to Iran, which had no one or two child policy, yet accomplished a fertility rate reduction similar to China’s in two decades. Note that both China and Iran are now encouraging more children, but families are not complying.

    China’s notorious forced abortions is what caused Republicans to stop funding the UNFPA, even though the UNFPA did not promote the abortions.


  • Karen Gaia

    Since you are basing your proposal the preamble of the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (held in Cairo), everyone in this discussion ought to know that the Program of Action that was the result of this conference was signed by 179 countries, and that it spells out the path of family planning and other development needs that must be followed. This is the path that I truely believe must be followed to accomplish fertility reduction.

    This is a path that has been followed for the two decades since the Cairo conference, and it’s latest iteration is the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Reproductive choice and health are covered in SDGs 3 and 5. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/

    http://www.iisd.ca/cairo.html / http://www.unfpa.org/icpd/icpd_poa.htm

    At the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) held in Cairo in 1994, 179 countries agreed that population and development are inextricably linked, and that empowering women and meeting people’s needs for education and health, including reproductive health, are necessary for both individual advancement and balanced development.
    . . . . .
    Family planning: the action plan stresses the importance of the free choice of couples to decide the number and spacing of their children. Couples have to be informed about family-planning programmes and about the use of modern contraceptives which represent an important opportunity for individual choice. Governments have to engage in ensuring everyone the right of voluntary choice in family planning.

    • stevenearlsalmony

      Dear Karen, Please recall that the world population was 5.6 billion in 1994. Now we have 7.6 billion people on Earth. That is an increase of 2 billion humans in 24 years. That growth is patently unsustainable on a planet with the size, composition and ecology of Earth. If we keep doing the very same things we have been doing under the ICPD – 94, how can we be expected to realistically address the colossal ecological threats to future human well being and environmental health posed by the skyrocketing growth of absolute global human population numbers?

      Population growth in the past two and one half decades can be compared to the 2.3 billion humans that were alive on Earth in the year of my birth. We cannot keep doing what we are doing now and have any chance of success. Sincerely, Steve

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Another musical interlude……


  • Stuart Hurlbert


    Excerpts from

    There is No Global Population Problem
    by Garrett Hardin, University of California, Santa Barbara
    The Humanist, July/August 1989

    Almost two hundred years have passed since Malthus disturbed the world’s slumber with his celebrated Essay on Population. Today, the world has more than five times as many people in it, and the rate of population increase is nearly four times as great as it was in Malthus’s day. Each year, the globe must support 90 million more people. Population control is needed…..

    Reasoning by analogy, some optimists in the Twentieth Century have argued for a laissez-faire approach toward population growth. They postulate a “demographic transition” process that automatically stops population growth before it hurts. Since European fertility fell as the Europeans became richer, it was argued that all we need to do to help today’s poor countries is to try to make them rich. The past half century has shown that a laissez-faire approach toward population growth fails. The needy poor greatly outnumber the charitable rich, and the poor breed faster. Africa’s numbers are increasing more than ten times as fast as Europe’s….

    Lastly, someone cries, “But the population problem is a global problem. We need global solutions!” Before panicking, let us look at the word global. Some problems are certainly global. Take acid rain. Take the green house effect. Both cases involve the atmosphere, which is forever distributed and redistributed over the entire globe. Now, let’s look at the potholes in the streets. There are potholes all over the civilized world, but is that any reason for setting up a global pothole authority to fix our potholes? …

    The moral is surely obvious: never globalize a problem if it can possibly be solved locally. …We will make no progress with population problems, which are a root cause of both hunger and poverty, until we deglobalize them. Populations, like potholes, are produced locally…

    We are not faced with a single global population problem but, rather, with about 180 separate [I think that with the breakup of the Soviet Union, we are now up to 196! – S.H.] national population problems. All population controls must be applied locally; local governments are the agents best prepared to choose local means. Means must fit local traditions. For one nation to attempt to impose its ethical principles on another is to violate national sovereignty and endanger international peace.

    • stevenearlsalmony

      Dear Stuart Hurlbert, For a long time we have gone forward according to the mantra, “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Look at where that guidance has brought us in 2018 vis a vis the human overpopulation of Earth. We need another shibboleth for humanity. Perhaps the anticipatory guidance needed now here is captured by the words, “Think Globally, Act Globally.” Whatsoever we choose to do, it is incumbent upon us not only to do something, but something that is somehow right…. for a change. And not make bad matters worse. As you pointed out elsewhere in this discussion, we are likely to be confronted with either the collapse of Western-style civilization or the human-driven ruination of Earth as a fit place for human habitation and life as we know it. It appears to me that we need to think and act big while there is still time for meaningful human intervention. Sincerely, Steve Salmony

      • Stuart Hurlbert

        Steve. there are many “Think globally, ….” adages out there to choose from, and it’s surprisingly tricky business”
        With respect to population issues, the best second part of the adage is “…Act nationally,” simply because family planning and immigration policies are set by nations, that is likely to remain the case, and when the job is turned over to supranational entities you tend to get a very undemocratic result, like the current Merkel-induced crises in the EU.
        “…Act globally” is certainly a possibility, and I am ready to leap into action as soon as a single country asks for my recommendations re its policies. Not likely to happen. If another country checked me out, they would learn that not even my own government wants to hear my recommendations.
        “… Act globally”, as interpreted by legions of bureaucrats, NGO heads, and others with fat travel budgets, has generally meant “Think globally, Go to a conference in Rio.”
        “… Act locally,” properly interpreted, would do fine were it not for the fact that it has become “code” for NOT acting nationally. See my critiques of Elinor Ostrom and Jane Lubchenco, both of whom have opposed discussions of national population policies, in my article:

        “Population Camel Gets Its Nose into Ecologists’ Tent:
        Hope Is High That the Rest Will Follow”

        Since that article was published, Lubchenco, Oregon State ecologist and chief NOAA adminstrator in Obama’s administration, has written the executive director of the AAAS applauding his refusal to allow exhibitor booths on population issues at AAAS meetings.

        Most of us have enough home-grown idiots and censors to deal with for us to have any stomach or time for taking on those in other countries.

    • stevenearlsalmony

      Dear Stuart, Please know of the respect and admiration I hold for the seminal work of Garrett Hardin. While I do appreciate Hardin’s perspective regarding “no global population problem,” perhaps there is another equally acceptable and naturally persuasive way of looking at the problem. Rather than comparing global human population numbers with the number of potholes on Earth, let us step back for just a moment and change our scope of observation. By so doing we would be choosing to look out of our eyeballs, but not at human numbers as if they are analogous to potholes…. not as molecules in a wave or trees in a forest. By changing the scope of observation we would be looking at the human population, writ large, from a species-wide perspective. Choosing a scope of observation is like deciding to look at either the forest or the individual trees, at either the wave or the molecules of the wave. Perhaps the challenge before us is a species overpopulation problem that is not related to reproduction numbers or declining total fertility rates, even in many places. Notwithstanding reproduction numbers and lowered total fertility rates in a multitude of locations, absolute global human population numbers can be seen still growing in a near exponential way. The population wave is getting larger and coming closer.

      Imagine that we are looking at a huge ocean wave, watching it move toward us on the shore. Think of a tsunami. The wave is moving toward us; however, at the same time, there are many molecules in the wave that are moving in the opposite direction, against the tide. If we observe that the propagation of the human population worldwide is like the wave, and reproduction numbers and total fertility rates are like the molecules, it is inaccurate for the latter to be looked at as if it tells us something meaningful about the former because the molecular data are the ‘human molecules’ that move naturally against the ‘wave of humanity’ which is propagating before our eyes. The wave moves toward those of us on the shore who are observing its enlarging size as well as its acceleration in our direction.

      Continue looking at the tsunami. The giant wave is moving inexorably toward us; however, at the same time, there are many molecules in the wave that are moving in the opposite direction, against the tide. If we observe that the data derived from the propagation of the global human population is like the wave and the reproduction numbers and total fertility rates are like data related to the molecules, is it not inaccurate for the latter to be looked at as if it tells us something meaningful about the former because the ‘human molecules’ move against the ‘wave of humanity’ which is going to eventually come ashore? The molecular data and the wave data point in opposite directions, do they not? As ever, Steve

      • Stuart Hurlbert

        Steve, a couple of points.
        The word “exponential” in general parlance usually simply means “high”, as in exponential rate of growth.

        However, in mathematical, statistical or data contexts, it means only a fixed per capita rate of growth (or, in a banking context, a fixed interest rate). That rate can be high, moderate, low or even negative, but it has to be fixed. In that sense, neither human or global population growth has ever been “exponential” and neither is now.

        Sticking with your tsunami metaphor, I would say that tsunami risks (or potential sea level rise problems) are like potholes and need to be dealt with, primarily though not exclusively, by planning at the national level. Countries will make their own decisions as to how much, for example, they will want to continue investing in high-cost infrastructure on coasts only slightly above current sea levels.

        And tsunamis only come ashore occasionally and in specific locations. They are not global events in any meaningful sense.

        Unless you assume that nations will not or cannot or should not assume responsibility for their own immigration and family planning, etc. policies, then having good national and local pothole repair (or prevention) policies seems the only pragmatic solution.

        • stevenearlsalmony

          Dear Stuart, The thoughts expressed in your response above are simply advanced beyond my analysis of the existential situation we are in the process of adequately comprehending. Please know that your input is valued. As you have eloquently pointed out in numerous posts, we need to approach the colossal problem humans appear to have precipitated by recognizing and accepting the existing institution of the United Nations, with all its capabilities and limitations. It is visible to me now how the member states of the UN must be the driving forces in whatever is to be derived from our efforts to establish the proposed framework from Rob Harding. Neither all of us here nor the UNO can function productively otherwise. Henceforth, please anticipate that I will substitute the word, global for the word national and the word, skyrocketing for the word exponential when discussing the ways “the world problematique” could be confronted. Let us all keep going. Steve

    • William Dowling

      The problem with this is that due to globalisation and global trade and increasing migration all countries impact on each another in respect of population just as much as they do on climate change and pollution and plastic in our oceans etc.
      I believe Garret Hardin also observed something like “There is nothing
      more dangerous in a crisis than a shallow thinking compassionate person”

      if all the rich countries stopped all immigration and all foreign aid, the overpopulation problem in the poorer countries would soon make them either realise the error in their ways, or else they would suffer their population being reduced by even more starvation genocides desease and wars than they do already, thus reducing the population problem in those countries.
      In addition, stopping immigration would greatly reduce the population growth problem in the richer countries at the same time!
      So, what is wrong with this solution?
      The real underlying problem here is that all the rich already wildly overconsuming countries still want more economic growth – and they need more immgration to promote it. They also want some means of access to the resources of the poorer counties to further fuel more economic growth, because they have almost drained their own countries completely dry, So they wont stop doing either of these things, while they disguise their exploitation of the poor countries and their people under a cloak of compassionate immigration and foreign aid, with strings attached..

      The more I think about it, there is only one population concerned NGO that has really identified the root cause of all the global problem we have;
      GROWTH – ALL growth must be stopped! See: http://www.growthbusters.org

      • Stuart Hurlbert

        William, since there seems to be no large organization or group of experts that is suggesting “stopping all immigration and all foreign aid,” that hardly seems a scenario worth discussing.

        But yes, “reducing population growth in the richer countries” is a great idea don’t you think? And a large majority of Americans thinks so too, as shown by January’s Harvard Harris poll : 54% think legal immigration should be restricted to less than 500,000 year. And the Jordan commission of more than two decades ago recommended essentially the same.

        It is not our “wildly overconsuming country” that is the main problem; it is our Congress and its paymasters, which include the wealthiest foundations. And our “countrymen” have held them all at bay for more than a decade as both Democrats and the business wing of the Republican party have tried to pass comprehensive immigration expansion bills. Ironically, it has taken a Trump administration to create the actual possibility of greatly reducing our population growth rate — even if it is also doubling the child tax credit and engaging in many anti-environment actions. We are in an Alice-in-Wonderland situation at the moment, but one still full of potential if we don’t get as hysterical as many of our friends and relatives have.

        As to population concerned NGOS, I think the great majority understand the need to reduce “economic growth” (= national GDP in the parlance of pro-growth economists and journalists) in order to reduce the social, economic and environmental consequences of overpopulation. But, realistically going towards national ZPG is a critical step in achieving that reduction, even if the Population Connection (formerly ZPG), the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity no longer have the acumen to understand that.

        Here is a formal statement of that principle by our Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization:

        “While population stabilization is critical to the furthering of social justice, economic prosperity for individuals, environmental protection, and transition to ecological economics, these ends also require increased efficiencies of resource use and reduction in profligate levels of consumption where these occur. Such reduced consumption will become compatible with a high quality of life so long as we move steadily toward a sustainable population size. The quest for unlimited economic and population growth must be recognized as the path to ecological ruin and civilizational collapse.”
        See: http://www.populationstabilization.org

        At our exhibitor booths we pass out articles and books by many of the key writers on ecological economics moving to steady state economies.

  • Karen Gaia

    Scanning through the first several posts in this discussion, I see little mention of family planning, except to call it a euphemism. The real and only solution is a combination of reduction of resource consumption combined with fertility reduction. This fertility reduction is much easier to achieve than lowering consumption if done properly – not by setting target family sizes and moral imperatives, not by cutting the food supply (an idea that does not apply today), but through girls education and meeting the unmet need for contraception.

    The reason that family planning is not working fast enough is that there are enough Betty Hartman and religious types in this world to prevent adequate funding.

    Compare the progress being made in fertility reduction to progress in consumption reduction. Consumption continues to go up, even with the middle class, and even with rising population we see a lesser number of people going hungry. Fertility, on the other hand, continues to go down, despite the fact that 214 million women a year have an unmet need for contraception, despite the fact that a very large percentage of women are using less effective methods of birth control, despite the fact that a large number of women don’t speak a language in which accurate birth control information is available.

    You will never convince the Betty Hartmans and policy makers of this world to address much-needed funding for family planning until you stop talking about population control, setting targets, and stopping improvement of the food supply.

    Let me know when you start seriously talking about solutions that already work. And in the meantime, visit my websites masai-harmonial.org and overpopulation.org

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Karen, good to have an additional voice. But keep in mind that the essence of this initiative is found in Rob’s 6th paragraph:

      “In effect, such a treaty would formalize what was presented in the preamble of the 1994 United Nations International Conference on Population and Development: “The recommendations for action are made in a spirit of consensus and international cooperation, recognizing that the formulation and implementation of population policies is the responsibility of each country and should take into account the economic, social, and environmental diversity of conditions in each country, with full respect for the various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds and philosophical convictions of its people, as well as the shared but differentiated responsibilities of all the world’s people for a common future.”

      The idea is NOT for us to propose a global policy or for some supranational entity (e.g. UN) to do so, but only to get widespread and public acceptance of the idea that EACH COUNTRY should have its own explicit, rational population policy developed by its own citizens and leaders. Clearly and unavoidably such policies would vary radically among countries, and in many countries the leaders may refuse to develop them, even if those countries signed the general statement supporting the general idea of having them.

      • Karen Gaia

        Athe 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) articulated a bold new vision about the relationships between population, development and individual well-being. At the ICPD in Cairo, 179 countries adopted a forward-looking, 20-year Programme of Action (extended in 2010) that continues to serve as a comprehensive guide to people-centred development progress.

        The ICPD Programme of Action was remarkable in its recognition that reproductive health and rights, as well as women’s empowerment and gender equality, are cornerstones of population and development programmes.


        Today, it is globally recognized that fulfilling the rights of women and girls is central to development. But if one were to trace the origins of this realization, many threads would lead back to Cairo in 1994.

        There, at the International Conference on Population and Development, diverse views on human rights, population, sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and sustainable development merged into a remarkable global consensus that placed individual dignity and human rights, including the right to plan one’s family, at the very heart of development.

        Twenty years later, the comprehensive ICPD Beyond 2014 Review overwhelmingly supported the consensus that investing in individual human rights, capabilities and dignity ‒ across multiple sectors and through the life course ‒ is the foundation of sustainable development.

        In September 2014, a Special Session of the General Assembly endorsed the findings of the 20-year review, and governments committed to intensified efforts to address gaps and emerging challenges.


  • Jason G. Brent

    I want a fight. I am going to repeat what I wrote below and if no one proves me to be wrong, everything written below is total BS. If population growth continues, it is certain that civilization will collapse. There are only two ways to stop population growth–coercive population control and non-coercive control, also called voluntary population control. Voluntary control has some chance of failure and anyone who takes the position that voluntary control has zero chance of failure is a fool. Humanity has not attempted to determine, as best it cam be determined, the chance of failure of voluntary control. I believe I can show that the chance of failure of voluntary control is extremely high. Since no one has determined the chance of failure of voluntary control, to be conservative humanity must assume it is very high. HOWEVER, THE IMPORTANT FACT IS THAT THE CHANCE OF FAILURE IS UNKNOWN.

    Anyone who refuses to consider, debate, analyze, etc. coercive control and compare it in every aspect with voluntary control and is prepared to gamble the survival of humanity on voluntary control when the chance of failure of voluntary control is UNKNOWN is a potential mass murderer. In addition to being a potential mass murderer, that person is insane because he/she believes that he/she is God on earth and knows enough to gamble the extinction of humanity on voluntary control without considering any other method of population control.

    Everyone is urged to read the works of Garrett Hardin. He makes it very clear that voluntary control must fail. No one can dispute that humanity is presently in overshoot. Getting out of overshoot requires a REDUCTION in population and/or a reduction in the per capita usage of resources. The faster humanity gets out of overshoot, the better are the chances that civilization will not collapse. The fastest way population can be reduced is coercive population control. If all of humanity were told that execution would follow if he/she produced more than one child and if all of humanity were provided the means to limit the production to one child, I would not lose a second of sleep if that person were executed after producing more than one child. In view of the fact that humanity is in overshoot and must reduce population to prevent its extinction, a very strong argument can be made that having more than one child is an act of mass murder. The only reason a person would produce more that one child is supreme arrogance and he/she does not care that the production of more than one child could lead to the extinction of humanity.

    When you attack what I have written above, do not give me BS platitudes —-attack what I have written sentence by sentence and show that my facts and logic are incorrect..I am prepared to fly to any place in the USA to have a face to face discussion with anyone who intelligently attacks what is written above. Jbrent6179@aol.com

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Young musicians speak to us and ask if anyone is listening, if anyone hears them?


    Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
    The Avett Brothers, North Carolina, USA

    There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
    In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
    And it comes in black and it comes in white
    And I’m frightened by those that don’t see it
    When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
    And your life doesn’t change by the man that’s elected
    If you’re loved by someone, you’re never rejected
    Decide what to be and go be it
    There was a dream and one day I could see it
    Like a bird in a cage I broke in
    And demanded that somebody free it
    And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
    So I’ll scream ’til I die
    And the last of those bad thoughts are finally out
    There’s a darkness upon you that’s flooded in light
    And in the fine print they tell you what’s wrong and what’s right
    And it flies by day and it flies by night
    And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it
    There was a dream and one day I could see it
    Like a bird in a cage I broke in
    And demanded that somebody free it
    And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
    So I’ll scream til I die
    And the last of those bad thoughts are finally out
    There was a dream and one day I could see it
    Like a bird in a cage I broke in
    And demanded that somebody free it
    And there was a kid with a head full of doubt
    So I’ll scream ’til I die
    And the last of those bad thoughts are finally out
    There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
    In the fine print they tell me what’s wrong and what’s right
    There’s a darkness upon me that’s flooded in light
    And I’m frightened by those who don’t see it
    For non-commercial use only.

  • Even if we could reduce population as fast as feasible by imposing or
    encouraging people to have smaller families (I have no objection to
    trying), it wouldn’t be nearly fast enough to deal with the real
    problems, the environmental problems. There are a few big reasons for
    this that everyone needs to understand.

    Population changes very
    slowly because most of us have long lifespans, with a median age of over
    60. So even if we go to the extreme of having 0 children for 50 years,
    we would only reduce the population by about half. Meanwhile, we have
    to reduce our fossil fuel burning, our deforestation, and all the rest
    of our destructive practices not just by half but all the way to 0! And
    we only have a very few decades of leeway, if that (it is already be
    too late to avoid lots of destruction). The only way to eliminate all
    our destruction, if we were to *only* reduce population, if we continue
    or expand our current polluting practices, is to eliminate ALL the

    But another reason population is the wrong thing to focus on is that, contrary to the still popular believe in the population explosion, in fact: “World Population is Stabilizing”: https://globalconsensus.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/world-population-is-stabilizing/ Meanwhile, economic growth has been dramatically increasing and will continue to increase even faster, and the more it increases, the worse our problems get. So that should raise alarm bells about economic growth, not population growth.

    It is also essential to realize that most of our
    environmental destruction is not due to most of the people. The world’s
    environmental problems can be clearly blamed on a relatively small
    fraction of the world, namely us! The parts of the world where the
    population is still growing happen to be the same places with the
    smallest footprint. And worse, the parts with the slowest population
    growth, even negative growth, are also the parts where the pollution is
    growing. (Keep in mind that we export our pollution to countries like
    China – they do our polluting for us.) So this is an anti-correlation.

    Population alarmists are indeed dangerous because I fear they
    will inspire someone to commit mass genocide, at worst, and they
    rationalize a huge waste of time and energy spent on the wrong
    solutions, at best. Articles like this one, while mentioning some of
    the underlying issues, such as the need to “reassess the role of an
    economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable
    energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt
    defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not
    taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.”
    note that the bold emphasis is on limiting population growth, as if that
    will have any meaningful impact on the underlying issues.

    there is actually good news that is surprising to many people.
    Population growth is actually declining because birth rates have been
    declining pretty much everywhere, and now most families throughout the
    world have 2 surviving children on average. And so the remaining growth
    is mostly due to longer lifespans, not having more children.

    more good news: We CAN make the necessary changes, to shut down the
    fossil fuel industry, replace our entire agricultural system, end
    deforestation and implement reforestration, and all the other critical
    issues, including restoration of the heavily damaged ocean ecology. We
    know how to do all these things, and in fact, we ARE starting to make
    many of these changes, so the question is how rapidly we realize what we
    really need to do and collectively make it happen!

    • billdowling

      World population is not stabilising fast enough! I see you have been taken in by Hans Rosling. He has done humanity a grave disservice with this misguided and badly timed and sadly misplaced optimism.
      We are on a trajectory leading to.around 10 billion by 2050 and at least 11 billion by 2100, according to the UN, which historically always underestimates anyway!.
      If the population is going to stabilise at all, due to demographic transitions and ongoing gradual birth rate reductions all over the world, it still seems it will be with far too many people for the remaining resources to support.
      Ultimately, left to its own extremely long term declining trends that so many choose to rely on, it will stabilise; but only due to wars over resources, mass starvation, water scarcity and other nasties. Hence this will be at a population level far below the existing 7.6 billion we have now. This must be the case simply because we all know this number is completely and utterly unsustainable in the long term.because we are consuming natural resources at the rate of 1.7 planets already, with the poorer countries quite rightly catching up, while the rich ones all still want even more economic growth!.
      This means that billions more than can otherwise be avoided, are going to have to suffer and die during this century; unless we do something intelligent to at least reduce the impact by getting the populattion level down as low as possible ASAP.
      Even an immediate global change to a TFR of 2, down from the current 2.5, can be shown to result in a peak population of 9.5 billion due to birth momentum, and would take several centuries before it would get it back down to the starting point.
      So, you can see why we have to mention “one child, on average” as the best solution, and why we need to get this proposal on the table in front of world leaders at UN level.

      No doubt the obvious alternative of making drastic cuts in resource consumption, particularly in the richer countries, will be put on the table by someone in a poorer country at the same time! I sincerely hope so!
      What is needed here is some form of globally agreed rationing, akin to the contraction and convergence proposed to tackle climate change – that still hasnt been properly and fairly applied! So, any expectations on global agreement on consumption reductions must surely be very low indeed.

      Of course, for the best chance of achieving long term sustainability, both population reduction and consumption reduction measures need to be applied at the same time.
      But, I strongly suspect that sufferring constraints on the number of children they can have will be much preferred to any constraints being put on their consumption!

      One last point, It seems to me that once they have been sufficiently educated and made fully aware of all the reasons (e.g. Consider the UCS second warning alone) why either or boith these contraints need to be applied as a matter of urgency, any parent or grandparent that refuses to accept the need for either or both of them, clearly does not really love their children or their grandchildren and doesn’t really care about their future at all, regardless of what they may say.to the contrary.
      If this occurs, I consider it to be the most extreme amount of wilful blindness and cognitive dissonance that is humanly possible, if not the highest height of hypocrisy that any human being can possibly reach.
      We can hardly expect those without children to pass this “love test”. We can only hope that out of common humanity they will share some real concern for all our descendants once they have been made equally well aware of the situation.
      I also sincerely hope that those in both camps will share some real concern for other species that are suffering badly under our poor stewardship of the planet.

      • stevenearlsalmony

        Wonderfully well put, William Dowling. Thank you for being here now.

        • William Dowling

          Thanks for the compliment Steve. At age 75 I am glad to be here! I hope I last long enough to see this reach UN Level for serious consideration.

          On the other hand, I am not at all sure I want to be around to witness it all come to a very sad end if we do not sufcceed in this endeavour!

          • stevenearlsalmony

            Dear Bill, We are peers. There is plenty of work for us to do and I look forward to striving with you, Stuart Hurlbert, Peter Fiekowsky, Rob Harding, Andrew Gaines, Jason Brent, Abdul Ghauri, David Sanderson and others who intend to make a meaningful contribution to this vital project. Let us fare forward by translating our best ideas into a reality-oriented plan of action so that Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved in a timely way. All my best, Steve

      • You mistake my argument that the world population is stabilizing as a justification for doing nothing else. In fact, I am also arguing that population is not stabilizing nearly fast enough to make a significant difference, as you might notice if you read more of my message. Rosling’s apparent optimism is really just about population, that it is in fact stabilizing, though it will take many decades as he also says. But many people, including yourself, have the wrong impression about many aspects of population, about why it grows and how long it takes to change. The “one child on average” will of course result in few children than two on average, but more children than “zero children for 50 years” and because of our long lifespans, even zero children will not reduce our environmental problems fast enough. So population reduction can’t be considered any kind of solution to our environmental problems.

        Meanwhile, you (and many others) seem to be confused about how hard it is to reduce our environmental problems, believing that only drastic cuts in resource consumption will make a significant difference. I didn’t make this side of the argument here, but I will now. In fact, the solution is not exactly cutting all resource consumption, but cutting bad consumption that contributes to pollution, which is mostly due to the irresponsible flagrant waste and dumping that occurs. We should be able to easily cut our waste and pollution by half in a couple decades, because we are so wasteful. Compare that to how long it will take to cut the population in half.

        The point is, we have to distinguish between two kinds of production and consumption. Some production/consumption increases pollution, but ALSO some production/consumption actually decreases pollution. In particular, products made from recycled resources reduces what would otherwise end up in landfills or polluting the oceans. So in the often used IPAT formula, not all production/consumption should be treated equally, just as not all groups of people should be treated equally. That formula averages it all together, lumping everything and everyone into the same buckets, thus confusing people into believing we must reduce all production/consumption and reduce all populations.

        You (and many others) also assume that developing countries will want and need to follow in our dirty footsteps, repeating all our mistakes, thus multiplying our problems in proportion to the remaining population growth (which is, again, not due to having more surviving children, but just letting already alive children live long enough to have their own children). We know now how to do everything in much better, truly sustainable ways, and rather than imposing our destructive habits on developing countries, we should help them develop everything in these better ways.

        Here is my collection of articles about how we CAN and MUST reduce the ecological footprint all the way to zero: https://www.scoop.it/t/zero-footprint

        • Stuart Hurlbert

          Daniel, you continue to disregard that population policies are set, de iure or de facto, by national governments, be they those concerning immigration or those concerning family planning. And that long before we reach ZPS massive damage will be caused to nations that do not act nationally NOW. Nations differ as radcially in their cultures as they do in their economies, and so they will set different population policies for themselves and resent other people from telling them what to do.

          All should be willing to assent to this project’s simple recommendation that rational population polices are the responsibiltiy of every sovereign country. Not only in Africa but in many western countries the populations are grossly overpopulated and NOT moving toward population stabilization, a possibility regarded with horror by the plutocrats who run the show as acolytes of the classical neoliberal economic model.

          • Stuart, while I am not disregarding where population policies are set, and as I said, I don’t mind attempts to reduce population growth, you and others seem to disregard what I am saying, that no matter what you do with population growth, it won’t be nearly enough, or soon enough. Not enough unless you are assuming genocide is a solution to anything. So your population policies might help a bit, but they are at best irrelevant, and at worst, a distraction, an excuse not to do what really needs to be done, and possibly a rationalization for some people to actually commit genocide believing that they are saving humanity.

            And you seem to be disregarding that we CAN actually reduce and reverse the environmental damage much more quickly and effectively, but not by attempts to indirectly and very slowly reduce population growth. What we need to do and can do is address the actual problems of destroying the environment in all the ways we do that have hardly anything to do with most of the population.

            By continuing to focus on population while not addressing the real problems, the environmental destruction very few of us are causing, you are effectively blaming the victims, the poorest fraction of the world, while denying who is actually causing most of the problems, namely the richest fraction, and you are failing to address what we can actually do to stop creating more problems and fix the problems we have created.

        • William Dowling

          Daniel, just like it is not much use reducing our carbon footprints if we keep on increasing the number of feet, it is not much use reducing our ecological footprints of consumption if we keep on increasing the number of people making them, is it?
          Clearly BOTH need reducing, and fast!.
          We do understand your point of view, and also agree that population reduction is inherently a longer term part of the solution while your preference for consumption reduction would, at least theroetically, be faster acting.
          The problem is that neither course of action is curently being followed quickly enough, nor looks ever likely to be followed fast enough, to ensure a sustainable future for ANY human beings at all. One child on average, if quickly implemented, could at least get the population down to under 4 bilion by 2100; which is an awful lot better in terms of both carbon and ecological footprints than the UN median prediction of over 11 billion, and which the UN admit could be as high as 16 bilion by then!
          Whereas, the very last thing the vast mahjority of people on this planet seem to want to do is cut their consumption.
          It seems to me that a huge part of the problem right now is that nobody is bold and brave enough to spell out to the world the stark choice we face. Either we reduce the population drastically or we must drastically reduce the allowable average per capita consumption every year to keep pace with an ever growing population.
          II is a no brainer decision isnt it ? We have tio reduce both!
          This is really a proposal for global contraction and convergence on population; commensurate with each country’s and our planet’s capability to support their own and in turn the total world population.

          No doubt MAHB will accomodate you if If you would like to put forward a parallel proposal to the UN on global contraction and convergence of consumption (i.e. global rationing of resources, which will naturally require a far more equitable distribution of ALL non -renewable resources and greater sharing of Renewable ones too!) I am sure a good number of us would support that too.
          However, the first major problem this will come up against is the huge imbalance in the existing population versus the actual biocapacity of each country.
          Would you propose global rationing of consumption per capita in each country according to the needs of its actual already excessive population or according to its sustainable population as determined by it’s own country’s biocapacity?
          On this basis, the UK is in overshoot by between 3 to 4 times.
          Would you like us to cut our average per capita consumption by at least 66% immediately?
          Wouldnt it far be better to try to get both the population and its per capita consumtion down in parallel, to converge towards a truly sutainable population of around 17 million rather than heading towards over 70 million by 2030?
          I think this population reduction initiative of Rob’s will gain far more support.than such an alternative proposal.
          I also think that if we were to attempt to combine the two into one targetting both from the outset, overtly raising the consumption reduction aspect will subtract badly from the support we badly need to get this population reducation initiative up to UN level in the first place. I am personally still open to the possibility, but It would have to be on the basis of some overall consensus on which way to go
          If someone like Daniel could, just for example, guarantee that by combining the two we would definitelt get a huge amount of support for this UN Initiative from all the Environmental NGOs and their members that never seem prepared to even discuss the overpopulation problem, and keep going on about the overconsumption problem – I, for one, am all for it.
          But, we in turn must be more prepared to discuss the overconsumption problem and not keep going on about the overpopulation one!
          I really would like us to sing powerfully, loudly and clearly from one “hymn sheet” at UN level.- together
          United we might get listened to at last, but divided and odds with each other like we still seem to be here, we are more likely tio fail.

          Can we possibly come up witha joint position statement that would satisfy both camps?

  • My own ecological footprint is probably that of an African village…and I consider myself an environmentalist. Demanding population control abroad while our nations prepare to double livestock populations to “meet demand” is selectively-sighted at best, sinister at worst. Show me how you can point the finger inwards, gentlemen.

    • Rob Harding

      Thanks for your comment, Ray. I and others in this thread do not support a doubling of livestock populations to “meet demand”, primarily in wealthy and/or middle income countries. This proposal is intended to help address the “P” in the IPAT formula. I support and contribute to separate efforts to directly address the “A” and “T” in the IPAT formula, which is also essential to minimize pain and suffering and maximize the health of members of our species as well as those of other species. No one is pointing any fingers except you and Ram. As examples of separate efforts that I support and contribute to, I encourage you to check out the Great Transition Initiative (www.inspiringtransition.net) as well as CASSE (the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy – http://www.steadystate.org).

      • The doubling of livestock requires the attention to remain squarely away from consumption habits of the northern hemisphere. This is often accomplished with a hyperfocus on family growth in low-consumption countries. Solving their poverty solves the population crisis, numerically, as evidenced by the decline of large families in wealthy nations. It does not solve the consumption crisis, as those nations continue to demonstrate an indifference to their ecological footprint, in particular the energy and water consumed and the carbon emissions created for our food. This has to be addressed lest solving poverty become our own downfall — should even the existing middle-class emerging in China consume like the average middle-class American, we will need in excess of 2 Earths to produce their demands; 4 Earths by 2050. The consumption crisis does not start in Africa. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e3d617d40b818f82b5ea6d2b3894799c6902f9ddcaf96f15c36ee75e44083e6a.jpg

  • Ram

    Jason G. Brent says:

    The only way humanity will survive is by coercive population control. … And by coercive population control I mean execution for having more than one child.

    Thank you for spelling out the real agenda at play here, Jason — sanctimonious protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, and freaking out some people because you said it publicly! Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the pushers of this initiative are thinking of “execution for having more than one child,” coercion is clearly the idea.
    To those who think, claim or pretend that coercion is not implied or imagined here, I want to point out that framework conventions under the UN umbrella are meant to be coercive, to the extent that prevailing international norms would allow. They are meant to provide legal cover to the signatory governments to implement certain policies that would obviously impact on their population. Nothing wrong in coercion per se if it can be justified as necessary, but pretending that it is not coercive only gives the lie to the claims made in the name of ecological concerns.
    Consider some of the existing UN framework conventions, most especially the UNFCCC on climate change:
    Even the grossly inadequate Kyoto Protocol that was worked out under this convention had sufficient legal power to force various countries to undertake actions to meet the targets that they had agreed upon. It also forced Canada to withdraw from this treaty after signing and ratifying it, rather shamefully at the last minute, so as to avoid paying a hefty sum — to the tune of “$14billion in penalties for not achieving its Kyoto targets”.
    This is also why some countries dragged their feet on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, either by refusing to sign, refusing to ratify after signing, or by trying to dilute the provisions of this convention.
    There are even 6 UN member states that have not ratified the ‘Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women’:Iran, Palau, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, and the United States.
    In 2010, in the July 28 UN General Assembly vote on Bolivia’s resolution to recognize access to water and sanitation as basic human rights,” including the USA, Canada, Australia, Israel and the UK.So stop for a second and think if it is a moral thing to do to push through a mechanism for population control (forget the euphemisms) before ensuring certain other basic rights?
    Many of the same powerful countries worked hard to kill or seriously weaken the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, because they know there are legal implications.
    So these conventions are absolutely meant to be coercive. This is also why the US, despite being the largest polluter at that time, did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and without the participation of the US, the treaty was bound to fail to meet its targets. This is also why the so-called ‘Paris Accord’ on climate change was made even more toothless, forcing James Hansen to call it a “fraud.”
    Powerful countries know what is implied in such framework conventions, that is why they actively work to sabotage such things. If they cannot stop them from happening, then they either do not sign it or do not ratify the treaties coming out of such conventions, or otherwise try to extremely dilute or weaken the treaty provisions. And they also refuse to own up to their historical responsibility, and instead dishonestly pointing fingers at other countries for not committing to contribute at the same level. This was the rationale of the US to not ratify “Kyoto” and also its main motive for refusing to support the “equity clause” demanded by the poorer countries at the Durban summit of the ‘Conference of the Parties’ to the UNFCCC in 2010. Todd Stern, the lead US negotiator, bluntly refused to heed the call for equity: “If equity’s in, we’re out.”
    Getting back to coercion, this has already happened as part of the population control agenda in many countries. I would urge people of conscience to check out the book
    Reproductive Rights and Wrongs: The Global Politics of Population Control‘ by Betsy Hartmann, ignoring the bullying and dishonest attempts to suppress such information. Please try to get hold of the 2nd edition (2016) if you can and give it a read.
    I draw attention to these things only so that people of
    conscience can think hard and do serious introspection before deciding on this matter, and not be bullied or conned by a whole lot of words intended to camouflage the real intent. I also want intelligent people to look closely at the argument that because curtailing overconsumption by affluent people is difficult, let us go after the poorer people by escalating the ongoing attempts at population control, but this time with a legal cover under the UN umbrella.Please also see my other comment where I elaborated on why this argument is seriously flawed.
    (This is also why I had to come back one last time (hopefully) after saying that I was leaving this echo chamber. I am just hoping that there are at least a few people of conscience who would look at the implications of such a convention, and consider supporting other efforts that have a chance of yielding much bigger results and in a shorter time, efforts that are clearly more ethical by any definition of “ethics.”)

    • Rob Harding

      Ram, you have proven yourself to be a troll. Jason Brent does not speak for anyone but himself, and Stuart Hurlbert and I have both responded to Jason directly to communicate our disagreement with the views he shared. You are also the only one doing any bullying, which adds to the irony of your comments above. All views are welcome here, and I’ll read Betsy Hartmann’s book that you recommended.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    MAHB deserves our gratitude and thanks for presenting so vital a proposal along with the opportunity of open discussion. Given the import of this initiative, perhaps it will be useful at this point to provide for more outreach of the kind Peter Fiekowsky encourages. If anyone involved is this conversation would like to communicate directly in a timely manner about anything that is presented in this thread, please feel free to contact me by sending an email to or calling (919)-533-6914. Thank you to All.

  • William Dowling

    I am somewhat dismayed by the variety of opinions and considerable lack of agreement here.
    Please. can we focus a lot more on how we are going to get Rob’s excellent initiative onto the table at UN level for a proper debate amongst world leaders.
    We would all be better occupied out there canvassing for support for this basic initiative not arguing amonst ourselves on the finer details of it.
    Maybe what would help would be a first draft of the Joint Position Statement that organisations should sign up to, as Rob suggested in his proposal?
    Or would some of us just waste a lot of time tearing that to pieces before it ever saw the light of day – because it didnt sufficiently agree with their own specific agenda? .
    We have to get this up to world leaders level. Where else is that a platform than at the UN?
    Please believe me,they and their governments are the only ones that are going to be able to inititiate sufficient changes soon enough to ensure a sustainable future for humans and other species on this badly depleted planet now..
    That is not to suggest for one minute that we should not continue to work at all levels right on down to the grass roots and individuals; to increase awareness and understanding of both the huge overpopulation and overconsumption problems we are facing – and which are both still increasing.
    Hopefully, we can induce many more positive individual and local community actions while we press on with trying to get some serious and meaningful action started at the highest possible level – at long last.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      William, I’m sympathetic but look on the bright side. Despite the wide disparity of opinion, the discussion has been pretty civil and a lot of it fact-oriented. And we might make the assumption that those are good conditions for learning and for everyone having a glimpse of the “real worlds” of politics and intellectual mixed martial arts.

      Your suggestion of going to a “first draft” seems on target to me. Perhaps we could recommend a step-wise approach to Rob: 1) he drafts that “first draft” alone taking into acct all the constructive suggestions for far; 2) he select a diverse but small group of other “on board” folks, to refine that into a “second” draft via internal discussions; 3) they then put that out to all known “on board” folks for further parsing online, including by new folks coming “on board”.

      Those who think we are wasting our time or being irrelevant or inspiring genocide might chime in again, but new such folks will be continually attacking us during this process until we reach the stage where we can work via a members-only discussion listserv.

  • Jason G. Brent

    Let me be very direct, I do not care if any reader agrees or disagrees with me. Time will determine who was right. If population growth continues human must suffer the collapse of civilization on a world wide basis. A strong argument can be made that civilization will collapse unless population is substantially reduced—people talk about 2 billion as the sustainable number. The collapse of civilization will cause the deaths of billions and even the extinction of the species–about eight or nine nations presently have weapons of mass destruction and more nations and even terrorists will have them in the future. There are two and only two methods by which population can be reduced before collapse begins–coercive control and non-coercive control also know as voluntary control. I know and I believe that I can convince anyone who will review the evidence that voluntary control will fail—see the essay written by Garrett Hardin in 1968, “The Tragedy of the commons”. Even if I cannot convince you that voluntary control will fail, you must acknowledge that voluntary control has some chance of failure. If it is your position that voluntary control has zero chance of failure, you are a fool and stop reading. No and no group has attempted to determine, as best it can be determined, the chance of failure of voluntary control. To gable the survival of humanity on voluntary control without attempting to determine the chance of failure is an act of supreme stupidity and arrogance. No one on the face of the earth has the right to take the position that he/she has enough knowledge to gamble the survival humanity without considering all possible methods of saving humanity.LET ME BE VERY CLEAR, COERCIVE CONTROL IS A HORRIBLE CHOICE. HOWEVER, THE EXTINCTION OF THE HUMAN SPECIES IS A MORE HORRIBLE CHOICE. If you disagree with that concept, we do not have any basis for future discussion.

    To be conservative, we must assume that the chance of failure of voluntary control is very high until someone or some group determines otherwise with a substantial degree of assurance. Due to the the time constraints (population is predicted to increase by about 3.6 billion between now and 2100 reaching about 11.2 billion) and due to all the problems presently facing humanity (I will not list those problems as they should be known to you) that could cause the collapse of civilization by 2100 humanity, if it desires to survive must immediately consider, discuss, debate, etc, every aspect of coercive control and compare it in any manner with voluntary control.
    The fact that everyone reading this message and almost everyone on the face of the planet condemns coercive control should stop discussion about it. Discussion cannot harm anyone. Failure to have discussion can and will lead to the collapse of civilization. The UN’s numbers issued in 2017 take into account that many nations have started or will start programs to reduce population growth by voluntary means and the UN’s demographers still predict the increase I set forth above. That prediction undercuts the position of those that want to gamble the survival of the species. I stand by my previous statement written here.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Total Fertility Rate —-


    Much more intellectual honesty, moral courage and humanistic action is needed. We are a species of 7.5 billion overconsumers, overproducers and overpopulaters on a finite and frangible planet where resources are being recklessly dissipated and environs relentlessly degraded. As we observe human numbers around the world continue to soar in a near exponential manner, despite declining total fertility rates in many places, we also recognize that never in the course of human events have so few taken so much from so many and determined to leave so little for others, much less coming generations.

    During a lifetime marked by the past three score and ten years, global human numbers have exploded from less than 2+ billion to 7+ billion worldwide. We must not allow declining TFRs to blind us to increasing absolute global human population numbers! Much like a bull in a china shop, a population leviathan is loose on the surface of Earth.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Precisely. The mathematical fact that the global per capita rate of population growth is decreasing is no more reason to be optimistic about the planet’s future than is my slowing metabolism reason for me to be optimistic about my future.

      As all scientists who have looked at the matter scientifically and realistically (e.g. Paul Ehrlich, Jim Brown, etc.) agree, there will be catastrophic effects if we add even 2 billion more people. The end of humanity, via a super-sauna climate, is not likely to be one of them but the end of an industrial civilization is likely, along with the disappearance of all species of wildlife with a lot of meat on their bones — though many that only come close to extinction may recover when our hunter-gatherer descendants have crashed to a billion or so, just as has the wildlife of the Chernobyl region.

      On second thought, after two vodka tonics, and my slowing metabolism notwithstanding, I’m thinking I can make it to the Great Wildlife Resurgence a century from now.

  • Paul Richards

    It doesn’t go far enough.

  • Jason G. Brent

    The only way humanity will survive is by coercive population control. A super world-wide government must be formed to control population. And by coercive population control I mean execution for having more than one child. Anything short of that will fail and humanity will go extinct before 2100. jbrent6179@aol.com

    • Rob Harding

      We disagree on this, Jason. But thank you for joining the conversation. I hope to earn your support for the 3-pronged solution I suggested. You’re right that our species might go extinct before 2100, but even up against that possible outcome coercive population control isn’t a reasonable proposal. It isn’t necessary, and even if it was it’s not worth it. That’s just another form of dystopia which we don’t want to force upon ourselves. I believe my comments here are widely supported by most people, whether they are ecolate or not.

      • stevenearlsalmony

        In the course of less than two weeks a splendid discussion has developed here, one of the best in my very limited experience. Our exchange of ideas has refined my own views of how a group might responsibly go forward in support of Rob Harding’s proposed framework. This framework is given life by the sensible ideas we generate that make it practicable. We have made a remarkably astute start as well as set out a path upon which we can realistically proceed. Thank you to all. Let us fare forward. There is much work still to do.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Jason, you do realize that putting forward publicly such silly, misanthropic and scientifically unsupportable statements, all do do is damage the reputations of rational individuals or organizations fighting for population stabilization at lower than current numbers when ideologues on both the far left and far right try to link you us.

      “Humanity” would already be extinct if society ever adopted your proposal.

  • Stuart Hurlbert

    Rob, thank you for the energy and intelligence that you have put into this initiative, and your good sense about what, pragmatically, will and will not work. As a denizen for almost 60 years of the academic and environmental subcultures, I’ve had my fill of utopian, wheel-spinning, virtue-signalling demands that we solve all global problems now and simultaneously before we take the most feasible and most pragmatic first step.

    If this is to be a successful international effort, your suggestion that the final document be “narrowly prescriptive” is critically on target. There are many other issues to be dealt with, other battles to win, but sharply focusing energy and intellect is crucial to getting at least one win before we can expect a chance in the SuperBowl (I’m still recovering from too many chips and salsa yesterday afternoon).

    If nothing more was accomplished than getting a lot of NATIONS signing on to your quote from the preamble of the 1994 UN meeting, a great deal would have been accomplished.

    The academic rhetoric in many countries, perhaps especially those of the West, is that national population policies are “Oh-so-old-fashioned” and that we must wait for some UN commission to develop a “global” population policy or population directorate to be imposed on all nations. Those who think that a profitable direction need only consider how successful Brussels has been in convincing EU member states to step into line. The biggest mistake the EU made was not in getting agreement among member states on 1) a common population policy, and 2) common immigration enforcement policies. Clearly, if smarter and less impatient,they would have started with an Ireland-UK Federation (the “Great Green Isles”!), a Spain-Portugal Federation, and Eastern European Federation, etc.

    • Rob Harding

      Thanks Stuart. The “narrowly prescriptive” goal here is key. As I said in another comment above, we are aligned.

  • Peter Fiekowsky

    Rob et al, This is an excellent idea, and it needs to be much bolder, or it will be lost in the noise. Our goal is “a healthy population for a healthy planet”, (which we don’t like to talk about, but is generally considered 2 billion people).

    We need to have a “Norm of one” between now and the end of the century, to get the fertile population (age 0-40 years) down to 1-2 billion people, corresponding to a stable population of 2-4 billion. That requires an average birth rate like we have in Italy now (TFR=1.37). That prospect does not scare the Vatican.

    Are you willing to engage in actually saying what we want?
    Kennedy said, “We will land a man on the moon and bring him back safely by the end of the decade.” He did not say, “We’ll shoot a man to the moon and hopefully he’ll survive.”
    We need to say what we want, or we’ll just get more of what we have.

    • Rob Harding

      Thank you, Peter. I appreciate your comment. I guess I don’t fit into the “we” you mentioned, because I do like to talk about that number 2 billion. It’s important that we have this conversation, and I thank you for instigating it here.

      To answer your question, yes I am willing to engage in saying what we want. This proposal is not intended to be “more of what we have”, and I agree that “a healthy population for a healthy planet” is an appropriate way of describing what we should voluntarily strive for. We are aligned.

      That said, by chance are you willing and able to help raise this proposal to the attention of Pope Francis and the Pontifical Academy? I have attempted this and have so far been unsuccessful, but I believe it is essential for religious leaders to be a part of this important conversation so I welcome your help on this front.

      • Peter Fiekowsky

        I’m glad you asked about Pope Francis. I’m playing a long game there. We are organizing the first-ever Climate Restoration conference at the Vatican in April, which will organize climate work towards a specific goal: Giving our children the same climate our grandparents gave us 100 years ago. That means getting back to 300 ppm CO2 and restoring the Arctic ice by 2050. Those specific measurable goals are very achievable when viewed as engineering goals. You can’t do it with “good behavior” like emission reduction, it requires planning and engineering.

        Similarly, getting to 2 billion population (or 1 billion aged 0-40 years) is simply doable by 2100 if we make that a common goal. A “norm of one” makes sense when its inside a commitment to give a healthy climate to your grandkids.

        Economies do better with small families as you know well. Stabilizing the climate is not enough, and stabilizing population isn’t either. We need to be more conservative than the conservatives.

        We are designing our Climate Restoration conference to set the precedent for religions to talk about outcomes, not just good behavior. It looks like the world could accept climate restoration within a year or two after our April conference. At that point, discussing “2B or not to be” will be viable and we’re scheming for such a conference in 2019 or 2020.

        • Rob Harding

          Thank you, Peter. That is great to hear about. Very interesting, and I like the approach. Also, the “2B or not to be” slogan is excellent — memorable and abundantly clear. I would be thrilled to hear how this year’s Climate Restoration conference at the Vatican goes.

          • Peter Fiekowsky

            “2B or not to be” was from Paul Ehrlich. I figured that you’d have heard it before. I love it.
            Are you in the Stanford area? I’m in Los Altos.

          • Rob Harding

            Interestingly enough, I hadn’t heard it before. I used to live in the California Bay Area. I’m in Washington, DC now.

          • Peter Fiekowsky

            Rob- did you see Steve’s suggestion about participating in the Climate Restoration conference? Is it worth discussing?
            Regarding the Framework, please see my suggestion above to Steve: Can we rename the UN Framework on Population Growth to UN Framework [for a healthy] Population?

          • Rob Harding

            Yes, thank you Peter. I just emailed you. Absolutely worth discussing. We are clear allies.

          • stevenearlsalmony

            Dear Peter, Glad to know you and Rob Harding are in communication. Perhaps a genuine opportunity is about to appear in the offing that takes its shape in the form of an open discussion in a global forum where the topic of the human overpopulation of Earth will be objectively examined and remedies carefully sought. After all extant, uncontested ecological science of human population dynamics/overpopulation indicates with remarkable simplicity and clarity how the unbridled growth of absolute global human population can be recognized now here as the proverbial ‘mother’ of all human-induced global threats to future human well being and environmental health. With every good wish for success in this effort to speak out about a heretofore taboo topic….

          • stevenearlsalmony

            Hurry up, please. Now is the moment. Provide support for the proposal of a Framework Convention on Population Growth. As things stand, the leading self-righteous elders in the world on our watch are charting a course to the future that will wreak havoc on what is surely sacred and normalize what is plainly profane…..come what may. Those few with power like the status quo; whereas, the many too many without power want necessary change and a “course correction” while a ‘window of opportunity’ remains open. Note to self: the window is closing steadily in our time. When unbridled overproduction, overconsumption and overpopulation activities of the human species are running rampant and effectively overspreading earth, perhaps this moment in space-time is an occasion to do something that is different and somehow right, for a change.

          • Peter Fiekowsky

            Steven- Thank you for the encouragement. What is needed is a clear goal, not just good behavior. We know how to have small families–but there is not yet a global goal to leave a healthy planet for our children. When we talk about truly leaving a lush healthy planet to our children, having small families for the rest of this century becomes almost automatic. We’re changing the narrative from “population growth” to “Healthy population”. So we’re renaming the framework to the “Framework convention on Population”. We don’t want growth!

          • stevenearlsalmony

            Dear Peter, Very well. Your choice of words is fine. The new narrative seems best to me, too. You are doing great work. Keep going. Any protean attempt such as yours that moves the family of humanity toward future human well being and environmental health is what matters most. My support is abiding for what you are doing. With every good wish to you, Rob Harding and others involved in the Conference, Steve

        • stevenearlsalmony

          Dear Peter Fiehowsky, Is there any chance Rob Harding could participate in Climate Restoration Conference? The UN Framework on Population Growth could be a meaningful addition to the conference agenda. Thanks for your consideration of this idea.

          • Peter Fiekowsky

            Steven- That’s possible. It will take a bit of thinking. I would approach population as a critical 2nd phase. Would you organize a little conference call to discuss it? Who should participate? I’m pfieko@gmail.com

          • stevenearlsalmony

            Dear Peter, Please know that Rob Harding has my complete support in this effort. Whatever we choose to do, Rob should take the lead in determining our plan of action and future course. While I have no problem renaming the population growth framework, that decision will need to come directly from Rob. The framework is a product of his thought and effort alone. Peter, it pleases me so that you are receptive to considering population growth as an issue for the Climate Restoration Conference. To the extent I am able, you and Rob can anticipate my full backing of the Conference as well. Cheers, Steve

          • Peter Fiekowsky

            Steven- Can we rename the UN Framework on Population Growth to UN Framework [for a healthy] Population? Do you know the term “anchoring”?
            We want to start, or anchor the conversation with a healthy (size) population, not growth. We need to have a shrinking population this century, which isn’t an intuitive option in a conversation based on population growth.

            It’s similar to “climate mitigation” and “Climate restoration”. We want restoration, but you really can’t get there if you’re thinking mitigation. So we get people thinking restoration. Then mitigation sounds like a very bad option by comparison.

        • billdowling

          Dear Peter,
          I wish you well with your climate restoration conference, but I am awfully sorry to feel I must say this here – 2 billion by 2100 is not repeat not doable – not even by a 100% obeyed voluntary agreement or even a coercive one child global agreement.. The best I can offer you in terms of “easing” the current huge overpopulation problem we have now solely by birth rate reduction measures is around 4 billion by then. Will that do?
          Would you like to see the mathematical proof of this?
          If so, please let me have your e-mail address, I dont want to risk disillusioning everyone in all these threads!.
          Far too many of us involved in this population subject are sufferring from too much misinformation hope and optimism; in respect of what birth rate reductions alone can achieve.
          Now that we are in such a gross overpopulation and overconsumption situation.far more drastic action is necessary.
          For example, elsewhere in this thread, others have pointed out the urgent need to drastically cut overconsumption in richer countries.
          I absolutely agree 100% with them because only by coupling this with a global one – child agreement, and soon, can we achieve anything close to a long term sustainable population before resource decline decimates the population for us – and by far nastier means than us all being limited to one child and having to put up with rationing of our consumption of resources and so having to reduce our lifestyles!
          And, if any of the rich insist on maintaining or increasing their present standards, all that means is that even more of the poor will be forced to make do with even less than they have now, or maybe starve or even die.This is quite simply how things work on a finite planet with finite resources..
          Acting alone, all birth rate reduction measures can ever achieve is to make the current completely and utterly unsustainable situation more sutainable for a while longer. In truth, unless we can initiate drastic action in all the respects that the UCS highlighted in their second warning,we are merely indulging in a damage limitation exercise.
          Otherwise, all we can take pride in achieving is that for every birth we manage to prevent there will be one less human that will have to suffer and die before the end of this century.

          Which is why this immense overpopulation/overconsumption problem has to be elevated onto a par with UN initiated climate change action ASAP, and why this Initiative by Rob deserves massive global support by all population, environmentally and sustainability concerned organisations and individuals to get it there.
          I trust you agree with this much of what i have said here at least?
          Best wishes


          • Peter Fiekowsky

            Bill- Thank you for your response and passionate stand. I think you missed a subtly in what I said: The goal for 2100 is one billion fertile population (0-40 years), which would represent a stable population of twice that, about 2 billion. It will take another 50 years for the excess elders to die off, but they will add practically no children to our planet, so we can leave them out of our population policy.

            To get to 1 billion fertile from 4 billion aged 0-40 now, doing this over a period 60-80 years, requires a birthrate (TFR) well below replacement. In fact a TFR like in Italy (1.37 children per woman) has a halving time of about 33 years for the number of fertile people. If the TFR were 1, then the halving time would be about 25 years, assuming that the age of first birth is 25 years.

            To be specific: Yes, the population in 2100 would be closer to 4 billion, but with a fertile population of 1 billion, and birthrates going forward near replacement, we’d easily stabilize at 2 billion.

            We know that we can achieve a birthrate like in Italy…because they did that in Italy already. So the benefit of this narrative is that it presupposes we do what we’re doing anyway, but do it with a clear intention to save the planet. That intention will provide the required fine tuning to actually get where we want to be.

            For marketing purposes we should keep our message clear and simple: a healthy population for a healthy planet, a “norm of one”. Let others discuss and deal with consumption and growth. If we discuss those too, we will lose our impact.

            I welcome your feedback. pfieko@gmail.com

    • stevenearlsalmony

      How about attaching “The Framework” to the reinvention of culture based upon universal, readily shared, humane values?

      • Peter Fiekowsky

        What do you mean by “the reinvention of culture…”? Is that a thing?

        • stevenearlsalmony

          Dear Peter, A Global Framework on Population Growth would likely require some new, widely shared and consensually validated cultural prescriptions that provide guidance to those implementing a plan of action. I find it difficult to imagine how we go forward by leaving out culture. It certainly is a complication. The question is, Is it necessary? I would leave that judgement to any group that chooses to take on this challenge. In any case, no suggestion such as mine should ever become an obstacle to going forward. If it appears best, especially looking at this gambit in its earliest stage of development, perhaps it would be best to omit culture (and economics) for the time being. Your point is well made and taken. Thank you. Cheers, Steve

  • stevenearlsalmony

    If we choose preemptively to deny scientific discoveries that disclose to us the root cause of why the extraordinary, near exponential increase of absolute global human population numbers is fulminating on our watch, we cannot respond ably to the worldwide threats to future human well being and environmental health posed by the “population explosion.”

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Maybe I’m one of those who are denying these “scientific discoveries,” but none of us can know for sure until you tell us what they are!

      • stevenearlsalmony
        • stevenearlsalmony


          Too much food, too many people on a finite planet

          By Steven Earl Salmony

          Perhaps Pogo is correct after all: We have found the enemy and we are it.
          Pogo understands what is real. In taking account of what is real, human, environmental and planetary health could be increasingly at risk because humankind denies scientific knowledge regarding the root cause of human population growth. Earth is finite; its ecology is frangible. Natural resources of the planet are being dissipated; the environment is being degraded. Humans are ravaging the planetary home upon which all of us are utterly dependent for our existence. By so doing now here, we are effectively ruining our children’s home as a fit place for future human habitation. Pogo knows.
          The best available science indicates that the world’s human population – all segments of it – grows by approximately 1.5 percent to 2 percent per year, including more people with brown eyes and more with blue eyes; more tall people and more short people; and more people who grow up well fed and more who grow up hungry. We may or may not be reducing hunger by increasing food production; however, we are most certainly producing more and more hungry people.
          The evidence suggests the spectacularly successful efforts of humanity to increase food production to feed a growing population results in even greater increase in population numbers. Science points out that the perceived need to increase food production to feed a growing population is a consequential misperception: a denial of biophysical reality and of the space–time dimension. If people are starving at a given moment in time, increasing food production cannot help them. Are these starving people supposed to be waiting for sowing, growing and reaping to be completed? Are they supposed to wait for surpluses to reach them? In such circumstances, increasing food production for people who are starving is like tossing parachutes to people who have already fallen out of the airplane because the food arrives, but comes too late to sustain their existence.
          Human population dynamics is not biologically different in essence from the population dynamics of other species. We do not find hoards of starving roaches, birds, squirrels, alligators or chimpanzees in the absence of food as we do in many civilized human communities today, because these nonhuman species are not annually increasing their capabilities to produce more food. Among tribal peoples in remote original habitats, we do not find people starving. Like nonhuman species, “uncivilized” human beings lived – and still survive – within the physical capacity of their ecological niche.
          History is replete with examples of early humans and their ancestors not increasing their food production annually, but rather living successfully off the land for thousands of years as hunters and gatherers of food. Before the Agricultural Revolution 10,000 years ago and the onset of the steady production of more food than was needed for immediate survival, human numbers supposedly could not grow beyond their ecological niche’s capacity to sustain them because human population growth or decline is primarily a function of food availability. From a species-wide perspective, more food equals more people; less food equals fewer people; and no food, no people. No exceptions.
          Given its gigantic scale of 7.5 billion people and expected growth per annum, the human population precipitates identifiable and destructive ecological consequences worldwide. Recent global human population growth can be perceived and understood as the primary causative factor of a range of phenomena including biodiversity loss, global warming, climate destabilization, natural resources depletion and environmental degradation.
          A point in human history appears to have been reached when the ever expanding global economy, the ravenous per capita consumption of natural resources, and the explosion of the human population can be seen as patently unsustainable. Understanding the ways humanity is a powerful force of nature that threatens future human well being and environmental health, is a necessary step toward changing our production, consumption, and population growth trends. Regardless of how long a culture prizes “unbridled growth for gains” and chooses to leave it unchecked, surely it is not too late to understand what ails us as well as accept limits to global growth in production, consumption and propagation activities of Homo sapiens by altering human behavior accordingly.

          Steve Salmony lives in Fearrington Village, North Carolina.

          • stevenearlsalmony

            In the face of scientific facts that appear unbelievable and yet are irrefutable, our intellectually honest and morally courageous ancestors in science and earlier in natural philosophy did not choose to remain hysterically blind, willfully deaf and selectively mute. It is absolutely unacceptable for population scientists and other experts with appropriate expertise not to skillfully examine all extant research of human population dynamics/overpopulation and objectively report their findings to the community of scientists, writ large, and then to the human family. Not to accept such a responsibility to science and not to perform a duty to warn humanity of a clear and present human-induced danger, from this perspective, is a monumental failure of nerve by the brightest and best? If aware, influential and honorable individuals were to be granted the opportunity “to will one thing,” let it be that they share widely an adequate enough understanding of all extant science which discloses humankind to itself. So those who come after us do not blindly choose to take the “primrose path” we are treading now: a path adamantly advocated and relentlessly pursued at the behest of the most arrogant, avaricious, foolhardy, wealthy and powerful movers and shakers on our watch; a path recommended for coming generations to tread along which they will probably be forced confront some unimaginable, global ecological wreckage that their elders in my generation have played so large a part in precipitating.

  • Mary Lehmann

    Popularizing concepts and needed action is fine through the UN, but the Paris agreements should remind us not to rely on that. George Monbiot suggests initiating action at the lowest level that can handle it, and in this population initiative which ultimately involves personal decisions, a grassroots (community) seems the right level to begin finding out and exploring reactions to different methods of reducing birth rates.

    Why does Monbiot recommend starting as locally as possible? Because he believes the higher up on the political ladder decisions are made the more dilute the democracy. I agree.

    • Rob Harding

      Thank you for your comment, Mary. It’s a great one. I believe we are aligned, and also aligned with George Monbiot’s wise suggestion. As of now I believe movement on issues concerning human populations is important at all levels, including on the international stage to establish a universal framework. Within said framework, this is where national, regional, and community-based movements could shine.

      In addition to the reason you highlighted for Monbiot’s recommendation, I also assume that he suggests community-based action & decision-making because that’s the most resilient path forward. Given the deteriorating state of the world and the less energy-intensive future we appear to be headed towards, emphasizing community-based resilience in our policies and practices is quite prudent.

      • Mary Lehmann

        Of course population is important at all levels and of course the resilience theater is always first of all local, but the decisive reason for working at the local level first is that it is the most democratic, fostering response from the people most directly affected by it.

        Therefore, Rob, your nice comments operated to smooth things over, because you are a nice person, but now I’m asking you not to reply, but just to think of what being the most democratic level means and how might it affect your plans positively. Please believe I wish you every success, even though I also believe your UN plan needs some adjustment in timing.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      It’s not just birth rates, it’s immigration rates too, that the preamble to the 1994 UN conference implies must be taken into account. And whether we’re talking about immigration, family planning policies and services, empowerment of women, tax incentives for small families, and so on, it is primarily national policy that we need to focus on. “Grassroots” efforts will be most effective if they target national legislatures and political condidates.

      • Rob Harding

        Thanks for your comment, Stuart. We are aligned. I’m sure you saw it, but to clarify for other readers I was sure to include the topic of migration (in the “context” section), and completely agree that the preamble to the Cairo conference implies that immigration rates must be taken into account.

        Such a UN Framework Convention is intended to catalyze a concerted effort at the national level in each country to pursue a sustainable domestic population. Lastly, I also agree with your comment about “grassroots” efforts targeting national policies and practices.

      • Mary Lehmann

        Well, at least with Trump we have a chance for some creative gain nationally, if Trump has the sense to endorse the popular (in Chile) female pellet non-surgical sterilization known as quinacrine which would favorably go with his views on abortion, border policy and migration yet make him look like a good guy to the good guys seeking acceptable (voluntary) population limiting.

        I’m making a slight but important change in your last sentence: “Grassroots” efforts will be more effective as agents of needed change than national legislatures and political candidates “..and the UN. No one objects to the high level of change sought but only to the high level of the a g e n t of change. The UN’s high level of change is a great idea, but as the agent of its change, does that mean emissaries from all the different countries meet? (yawn).

        • Stuart Hurlbert

          No one yet seems to have figured out Trump. The globalist wing of the Republican party hates him almost as much as the Democrats.

          Legislation calling for large reductions in legal immigration are very popular (81% in a recent reliable poll), Trump says he supports them but he says nothing about how they would be the most pro-environment legislation since Nixon gave us the EPA and the Endangered Species Act.
          If he was smart enough to do that, and to endorse quinacrine as you suggest, it would be quite a revolution. Might even cause the extinction of the Democratic party, which, unlike the extinction of Pelosi and Schumer, wouldn’t be a good thing.

          • Mary Lehmann

            Melinda Gates working to help women in Africa reported that the women told her their worst fear is of becoming pregnant again. Wouldn’t it be best as a start to find out in specific countries what is preventing voluntary control of family size?
            Giving that plenty of publicity first would make any global resolutions on reducing population much better received.

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            I think this knowledge already exists, — typically it’s a mixture of patriarchy, religious ideas, ignorance, etc. — but perhaps you’re right that more publicity would help. That should primarily be the responsibility of other initiatives but not this one, I think. Keep in mind we’d like this initiative to be both focused and palatable to the leaders of the great majority of countries.

          • Mary Lehmann

            Re Trump, how does anybody get word to him?

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            Am also constantly asking myself this question, and I suspect a few folks at NumbersUSA, CIS, FAIR, etc. do have direct lines to particular Trump or Sessions staffers, and to those of the key congressmen putting forth good immigration bills. But, strategically, sharing that info is not always a good idea as it can lead to excessive email or fax loads on persons already moving in somewhat productive directions.

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            And don’t forget the White House portal through which you can send a message of up to (I think) 5000 words. It’s always a gamble, but if you have a good, original, civilly worded set of pragmatic ideas to put forward, you might submit it to a newspaper.

            Whether or not they accept it, you can then send it “directly” to Trump. With luck, some low level screener might find it worth passing on to a higher level screener who might continue passing it up the chain. All these Washington folks get a lot of stupid, shrill messages and spend a lot of time putting out brush fires. One can imagine they appreciate friendly and constructive messages, even if they don’t adopt your suggestions.

  • Abdul Malik Ghauri

    Whether humanity will survive on this earth planet or vanish away shall be based whether we control our birth rate or not; if population stabilizes humanity will survive if it continues to multiply humans will eliminate themselves and all other living species here on this earth planet.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Perhaps, but isn’t the most immediate worry the collapse of industrial civilization, which via many mechanisms could lead to a population crash to one or a few billion living as primitive farmers and hunter gatherers (and raiders of neighboring tribes)?

      No more climate change worries? No more worries about protecting wildlife habitat?

      Nirvana for those who like the simple (and short and brutish) life!

      Don’t think humanity (=mankind?) has any serious chance of going extinct.

  • stevenearlsalmony

    It is simply inconceivable that after a lifetime of work and literally thousands of presentations by Albert Bartlett of the exponential function that we remain confused about declining TFRs and increasing absolute global human population numbers in 2018. How on Earth are we going to gather momentum to do something about the predicament precipitated by 7.5 billion people in our planetary home when the experts evidently refuse to acknowledge fundamental math? This is not rocket science. And yet many too many experts are either strangely and inexplicably mystified by base mathematics or else mesmerized by a pervasive cultural bias that is making it virtually impossible for people to ‘see’ Why? WHY? a “population monster”(hat tip to Norman Borlaug and E.O.Wilson) is plundering the surface of Earth and threatening the future of children everywhere and coming generations. We have to overcome whatever the obstacles that prevent us from perceiving and then sharing an adequate understanding of the ecological threats the human species is evidently precipitating on our watch. Our failure to communicate on a matter so fundamental and absolutely vital suggests to me what is passing for shared scientific thought is not actually based in science. Perhaps preternatural thought or ideological-driven thinking and theorizing such as that which is found in Demographic Transition Theory/ Model and reported ubiquitously during my lifetime is clear evidence of at least one example of what is causing our communication problems.

  • Abdul Malik Ghauri

    Agreed with the Writer(s) regarding the threat; but solution in my view is 1 child policy for 20-30 years in the 3rd world to save the humanity, earth planet & other living species.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      May be best to avoid phrases like “1 child policy” and just provide tax and other incentives for smaller families — and clone the leaders of PMC.

  • David Sanderson

    A UN Framework Convention on Population Growth is an excellent and timely idea. We must do this!

    • Abdul Malik Ghauri

      David Sanderson please come forward and take lead with Rob Harding and others; we are with you, please unite the concerned noble people.

  • Philip Cafaro

    Great to see this new initiative. The evidence that humanity is already overpopulated, in many parts of the world and in the world as a whole, is overwhelming. Time to turn more attention from symptoms to fundamental causes.

    • stevenearlsalmony

      Can we discuss and share an adequate enough understanding about Why? WHY? absolute global human population numbers are skyrocketing. This colossal, patently unsustainable population increase is the root cause of the ecological threats to future human well being and environmental health. The population dynamics of the human species must be understood and accepted, fast. Acquiring this knowledge is a vital first step along a path toward sustainability.

      Human population dynamics are common to the population dynamics of other creatures of Earth. If Earth is a petri dish for the human species, then we are effectively eating ourselves out of house and home. I have not given up on the idea that humankind could yet somehow escape the fate evolution appears to hold in store for us. But if we cannot share an adequate enough understanding concerning Why? WHY? global human numbers continue to grow in a near-exponential way on our watch, then how can we ever be expected to mount an able collective response to visible, emergent and convergent, human-induced threats ominously looming before the human family and life as we know it?

      Research of human population dynamics is still being deliberately ignored or else consciously denied. Like other organisms, population numbers of Homo sapiens sapiens escalate or decline as a function of food availability. Given the dire straits in which humanity finds itself, such “head in the sand” behavior by population scientists and other experts with appropriate expertise is unbelievable. Silence is triumphant over science in our time. Please examine the following scientific research,



      Comments from one and all are welcome. All reviews are appreciated. Objective reports of findings related to the ecological science of human population dynamics are necessary. Thank you.

  • Johnny

    Nature will take care of “over_population” with one form of disaster or other.
    Hopefully wiping out the kid haters first

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Yes, “nature” can do that, just as it can cure your cancer the same way.

      Don’t detect any “kid haters” on this thread. Would you also call “kid haters” those people who use contraceptives to keep their families at a manageable size permitting a good standard of living?

  • Ram

    This is a misguided, dishonest, and frankly ARROGANT and INHUMANE attempt to divert attention from the REAL PROBLEM which is the profligate consumption and all kinds of resource-intensive indulgences by affluent people everywhere. It is misguided and possibly even malicious to target the symptom in a heavyhanded manner while mostly ignoring the causes, other than paying lip service to the overconsumption problem.

    At a time when the previous framework conventions on climate change and biodiversity have been so blatantly ignored and violated by powerful countries for so long, any HONEST attempt should be focused on ensuring stricter compliance to those frameworks instead of running off to create a totally needless and extremely divisive so-called “framework” which would only end up serving the powerful interests.

    • Richard Beauchamp

      Each individual is a lifelong consumer. You can’t match that by adjusting your own consumption! Also, many currently low consumers are quite reasonably wishing to consume more.

      • Ram

        If you had any idea about the timelines involved for each action, each solution, to have an effect, you would obviously focus on reducing the overconsumption, especially the non-essential, wasteful kind — which can be done instantly. As for low consumers wishing to consume more, that seems like a fraudulent argument for not focusing on reducing the wasteful consumption that already exists. Either that, or not having the power to do anything about the overconsumers, that is, being impotent to anything about the biggest problem, some people want to take on weaker targets.

        • Richard Beauchamp

          Please reflect on the premise that it is human’s consuming ways that impacts our ecology. It is future humans who will inherit what we’re doing. Even now our food and water insecurity are daily pressing problems. Why would anyone risk our descendants’ wellbeing with the exaggerated notion that we can lower average individual consumption to negate, let alone more than negate the impact of 10,000 more consumers per hour!

          • Ram

            Please stop the muddying the waters by referring to “humans” as if all humans consume anywhere even remotely close to the same amount of resources and energy. I have as much concern about the future generations as anyone else, and that is why I try to call attention to the common sense, logical thing to do that would have the fastest effect.

            Why don’t we start shutting down all the wasteful indulgences that consume too much energy and resource like water, place demands on land and lead to deforestation? Ecological footprint and carbon footprint, water footprint, etc. are simple enough concepts, they are measurable, so any HONEST person would start with those who have the largest footprint and work to shrink these footprints. People who are motivated by an awakened CONSCIENCE and people with a genuine sense of urgency would obviously focus on the overconsumption, and leave the human population number to stabilize itself and start shrinking, as it has been predicted to do by so many demographic experts. It is not as if ‘family planning’ initiatives and campaigns are absent in the poorer countries.

            It is very revealing when you refer to the lowering of individual consumption as an “exaggerated notion,” whereas people like you have no qualms prescribing family size BEFORE providing the people with a basic social safety net, before ensuring that a child born would grow up to be a healthy adult and would have a reasonable chance at a decent life.

            That is exactly what I referred to by the use of my word “impotent” in my above comment. People like you obviously feel powerless and clueless and helpless to do anything about the overconsumption, whereas people like you feel fully qualified and fully justified in prescribing one child per couple, or zero or two or whatever, and again, BEFORE you have lifted a finger to provide anything by way of a social safety net, health care, and such. BEFORE you have done anything to stop western meddling and corporate plunder in other countries. Before you have done anything to shrink the vast ecological footprint of Europe that extends far beyond its borders. I understand this mindset only too well. There are powerful entities who would be only happy to see the focus on population numbers and not on the overconsumption, so I guess such misguided, unfair attempts will only continue while you tell yourselves that you are doing something “for our descendants”.

          • Ram

            Someone keeps reporting my reply here as ‘spam’ and it keeps getting removed. Has happened twice already. This kind of behavior only adds to my suspicion of the motives of the people who engage in the population control business.

          • Rob Harding

            Sounds trollish, Ram. You have many comments in this thread, and your consistent baseless accusations of ulterior motives is, as you said, “childish online behavior”.

            You’re clearly right that it’s our ultimate impacts — sufficiently summarized by the IPAT formula — that are the problem. This would most accurately be described as consumption & pollution overshoot. I believe this is part of your main arguments thus far, on which we agree.

            What strikes me as odd is your apparent avoidance of acknowledging the significant role our numbers play in driving many of these impacts, mostly on whatever the local environments are in any given place where people live (with climate disruption, ocean acidification, and plastic pollution being some of the key exceptions to this statement about local vs. global impacts). Our large and (in most places) growing populations are a core driver of overconsumption and excessive waste generation — especially in countries like the U.S. — with continued population growth making our consumption and pollution overshoot problems even more intractable.

            It might be helpful to state the obvious: stabilizing human populations in every country, whether or not there is a UN treaty on this topic, is necessary but not sufficient to address the current overshoot predicament. Martha Campbell expertly highlights this point in some of her writing, which I recommend. Much more must also be done to scale back the human enterprise via less consumption and less pollution (e.g. voluntary simplicity movements). There is great work being done on this front but it is largely brushed aside or purposefully ignored in the mainstream (including the media), like at most environmental NGOs — one of the reasons addressing overconsumption has been such a struggle to date.

        • Stuart Hurlbert

          As I recall, the median family income in the US is something like $54,000. Thus for most Americans the possibilities for “overconsumption” are, shall we say, sharply constrained.

          For some resources, such as fossil fuels, our per capita consumption rates are heavily driven by consumption by the military which is not the case for most other countries in the world.

    • Abdul Malik Ghauri

      Affluent people consume more right but all are trying their best to be affluent & numbers of affluent people increasing every moment; we can not support the idea to keep people impoverished so they consume less. Numbers have to be controlled.

      • Ram

        “Numbers have to be controlled.” Very revealing indeed. Do you have ANYTHING to say about targeting the overconsumption by the affluent people for immediate results? ANYTHING at all? Considering that you seem to have a plan for “controlling the numbers,” I was just wondering if you have some plan for targeting overconsumption.

        • Rob Harding

          Ram, I suggest that you stop attacking others and making dramatic assumptions. It’s not helpful.

          That said, you are right that targeting overconsumption is essential; however, this proposal is not addressing that element of our shared predicament. Separate proposals for targeting overconsumption are also extremely important.

          You might be interested to hear that I’m an active volunteer for the Great Transition Initiative (http://www.inspiringtransition.net/) and also actively advocate for the transition to more localized, steady state economies which necessarily involves scaling back extreme overconsumption wherever it is occurring. For this I support CASSE’s (http://www.steadystate.org/) ongoing efforts as well as others in the ecological economics community who are doing tremendous work.

          Regarding your other comments:
          “This is a misguided, dishonest, and frankly arrogant and inhumane attempt to divert attention from the real problem which is the profligate consumption and all kinds of resource-intensive indulgences by affluent people everywhere. It is misguided and possibly even malicious to target the symptom in a heavyhanded manner while mostly ignoring the causes, other than paying lip service to the overconsumption problem.”

          I strongly disagree, and can only infer that you have misinterpreted the objectives of the proposal. That or you’re a troll. I hope you can appreciate the fact that overconsumption and overpopulation are two elements of the same predicament. We must work together to address both.

          • Ram

            I am not a troll, and I have not changed my opinion that this is a misguided, dishonest attempt by busybodies looking for something to do so they can feel they are “doing something.”

          • Rob Harding

            Thank you for clarifying. I agree with your assessment of the fundamental problems, though I and countless other ecolate global citizens view overpopulation as one of them — one of several. Also, no one here is hiding the fact that consumption of Earth’s natural assets is vastly unequal across the world and within various countries. That is a fact.

            I believe you when you say you are not a troll, yet your comments sound a bit trollish.

          • Ram

            That’s because it’s a completely unequal fight. You cannot expect the same level of cleverness and sophistication from those pointing out the injustice as those perpetrating it or those aligned with such perpetrators, even unwittingly.

          • Rob Harding

            I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Your “us” vs. “them” approach isn’t helping either. That said, I do think I understand where you are coming from and agree with the fundamental problems you have contributed to this thread.

        • Stuart Hurlbert

          Ram, you yourself have yet to propose how you can get the “immediate result” of having even a small percentage of the world’s population to become vegan.

          Absent a police state, the U.S. will have doubled in size before that ever happens, with tremendous impacts on consumption of ALL resources.

          For most of the high per capita consumption rate countries, population growth and growth in national consumption of resources is driven primarily by immigration, which, in the absence of crooked politicians and utopian ideologues, is quite easily controlled and reduced. This is not rocket science.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Ram, are you inisting we solve all problems simultaneously, or that it would be feasible to develop a concrete statement on “consumption” that all nations would sign? We need to take into account the limited intellect and altruism of politicians in ca. 200 countries.

      It seems to me that just getting a large number of countries signing on formally to the simple statement in the preamble to the 1994 UN conference would be a MAJOR accomplishment. It’s statement of clear principle that does not attempt to force any particular policy on any country.

      The four most populous countries are China, India, US, and Indonesia. What if they got the ball rolling and all ratified a statement?

      Unfortunately, it probably is my own country, the US, that would most “drag its heels” as both our political parties are in the pay of powers (chambers of commerce, building industry, multinational corporations, religious groups, etc.) that want unending population growth. Mentioning the mere phrase “population policy” to the US Congress is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. You need an easily scaleable fence close at hand.

      • Ram

        My objection is to the lazy focus on what is basically a symptom of other more fundamental factors, while being powerless or lacking the conviction or the interest to target some specific problems that would yield the biggest results in the shortest time for the least expenditure, while also contributing to multiple other benefits.
        In other words I am calling for an elegant solution or set of solutions rather than an intellectually lazy, heavyhanded approach that has zero originality nor any possibility of yielding the kind and the magnitude of results that are needed in the next 5 to 10 years time — the time that matters.
        As Sailesh Rao pointed out in his comments getting a substantial part of the population (not necessary to get a majority for this purpose) to switch to a fully plant-based, aka vegan, diet is by far the most elegant solution that would address multiple problems simultaneously, in a fair, equitable and effective manner in the shortest amount of time.
        Not focusing on this solution and instead going after something that would only appeal to the baser emotions of people in affluent countries, is clearly dishonest, or misguided at the very least.
        The dishonesty and the intellectual laziness come from the fact that the existing conventions on climate change and biodiversity need to be greatly strengthened and they require much stricter and stricter compliance from the affluent countries that are most responsible for the ecological crisis historically.
        The frameworks to address the overconsumption issue exist already. What is needed is to use them better. The Paris climate “treaty” is extremely inadequate. So the responsible thing to do would be to pressure the various governments to at least meet these inadequate targets for now, while pushing for more meaningful targets under the existing framework conventions.
        But for some reason, some people want to go off in a different direction. I know there are some good funding opportunities from some shady foundations for the population control business, but I am hoping that that is not an incentive here at least. But I still feel this initiative is misguided, and would only divert people’s attention and energy from other efforts that have more than a realistic chance to work, provided there is some honesty on this matter.

        • Stuart Hurlbert

          Ram, you now tell us where your penchant for substituting attacks on the integrity, honesty, sincerity, and “laziness” of others for civil discussion comes from. You are channeling Hartman, a far left ideologue who is considered a joke by most of the scientific and environmental communities!

          To repeat, the Harding initiative has a specific and exceptionally important symbolic purpose: to get every country to acknowledge that it should have a clearly defined, preferably written population policy, one defined only by the citizens and government of that country. Because acknowledging this desirability requires only the vision, goodwill, common sense and intelligence of key leaders in a country, it has a chance of success.

          Once a country sets out to actually develop its population policy, there will be a rough road of course. Just as many powerful interests (e.g. weapons manufacturers) benefit from wars, other powerful interests in every country benefit from high rates of population growth.

          You seem to think lots of countries already have articulated such clear population policies for themselves. CAN YOU PROVIDE ME WITH A LINK TO A SINGLE ONE?

          You certainly have no obligation to support the Harding initiative.

          But maybe instead of calling everyone else “lazy” you should put some effort into developing a concrete initiative on some aspect of consumption issues, for which there is reasonable prospect that many nations would officially sign on to it. If there are “elegant solutions” that would work in “5 to 10 years”, why wouldn’t they.

          Of course, some will attack you for being a “busybody” for doing that. Just have to bite the bullet, grit your teeth and take it like a man.

          • Ram

            I grew up in India, surrounded by government messaging about a small family: in billboards, on the radio (before there was TV, 40+ years ago, fyi), movie theaters, hospitals, etc. Various forms of birth control were made available either for free, of heavily subsidized, to below cost. There were even excesses committed in achieving “quotas” for sterilization. So you might want to turn off your bold letters. Or not. I don’t care. Bangladesh, Indonesia, even Philippines: all of these have population control policies. In Africa, countries like Nigeria have had population control policies since the 1980s. Kenya too has a serious program.
            I didn’t know Betsy Hartmann was “a far left ideologue” and the only reason I suggested that book was to show that population control policies have been in place in many poorer countries for decades and western agencies and institutions have been heavily influencing these programs for decades. Your kneejerk reaction with your “challenge” in caps shows that you haven’t really seen what’s in that book, nor do you care to. Apparently you only know Betsy Hartmann is “a far left ideologue” and therefore she couldn’t possibly have anything useful to say.
            If Betsy Hartmann is indeed “a far left ideologue”, so what? She has met and spent time with people at the receiving end of the population control policies in many countries over the years. In my experience, although I sometimes find the far left ideologues annoying, I find the western urban busybodies even more ridiculous and disingenuous with their posturing and their arrogance. So, there.
            The gist of your so-called argument basically comes to this:
            * Curtailing overconsumption of the affluent people is very difficult.
            * Getting the affluent countries to respect existing framework conventions and even the inadequate “accords” is difficult because of their arrogance and belligerence.
            * People who are poor today want to consume like the affluent, if they get a chance.
            * So let us make sure there are fewer of them, because, you know, that seems to be an easier target to go after. Also, more people => more consumption. How much simpler can it get?
            * All of this makes us feel like we are “doing something.”
            That really is the whole argument here, but for some reason there is so much applause for it.
            For your information, some of us are working on implementing these elegant solutions, the most important of which is to bring about a change in food choice that has a most direct and by far the largest impact on land use, water use, species loss and deforestation. But one of the things that stands in the way is the extreme dishonesty among the so-called scientific community and even among the so-called activists to acknowledge their addiction to certain destructive forms of consumption and a profligate lifestyle. So the struggle continues.
            I challenge people here — particularly those who are
            honest to get educated about the concept of
            ecological footprint, and its components
            such as carbon footprint. Also learn about water footprint. Most of all,
            learn about the ongoing ‘Cowspiracy — which
            is part of a culture of denial of responsibility. Since the subject is
            human population, also check out the per
            capita meat consumption
            of various countries
            (also here).

            While food choice is by far the most important factor to be addressed,
            provided we can have some more honesty on
            the matter, there is of course more to the matter of consumption. So do
            learn about the ecological
            footprint per capita
            of various countries. And the carbon
            footprint per capita
            . And ask yourselves if the focus on
            human population is rational and honest.
            Anyway I accidentally stumbled on to this page, and it’s a reminder of the reality out there — as if I needed that. So I’ll leave the echo chamber now so you can all continue with your mutual congratulations for saving the world.

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            If you only “stumbled on this page” that explains a great deal. You seem not to realize that you are trying to educate people on matters that at least several of us (I don’t know all) have known for decades, incl. all the stuff about meat.

            In our SEPS exhibitor booth on population issues, we’ve been distributing a graphic titled “Earth’s Land Mammals by Weight” (available at https://xkcd.com/1338/ ) for 5 years. I guarantee it’s more effective than calling people names.

            Yes, I know that many countries have family planning programs. But you still have not told us of a SINGLE country that has articulated a coherent POPULATION policy, acknowledging the need to reduce its population, the damage that will result if it doesn’t, etc.

            I’m also pretty sure that few or no other persons on this thread think that us naive “western urban busybodies” want to dictate population policies for other countries. Many of us are primarily concerned with lowering the population densities of our own countries at the same time we struggle to use resources more efficiently. So, good try, at a smear but it won’t work with educated people.

          • Even if we could reduce population as fast as feasible by imposing or encouraging people to have smaller families (I have no objection to trying), it wouldn’t be nearly fast enough to deal with the real problems, the environmental problems. There are a few big reasons for this that everyone needs to understand.

            Population changes very slowly because most of us have long lifespans, with a median age of over 60. So even if we go to the extreme of having 0 children for 50 years, we would only reduce the population by about half. Meanwhile, we have to reduce our fossil fuel burning, our deforestation, and all the rest of our destructive practices not just by half but all the way to 0! And we only have a very few decades of leeway, if that (it is already be too late to avoid lots of destruction). The only way to eliminate all our destruction, if we were to *only* reduce population, if we continue or expand our current polluting practices, is to eliminate ALL the people.

            It is also essential to realize that most of our environmental destruction is not due to most of the people. The world’s environmental problems can be clearly blamed on a relatively small fraction of the world, namely us! The parts of the world where the population is still growing happen to be the same places with the smallest footprint. And worse, the parts with the slowest population growth, even negative growth, are also the parts where the pollution is growing. (Keep in mind that we export our pollution to countries like China – they do our polluting for us.) So this is an anti-correlation.

            Population alarmists are indeed dangerous because I fear they will inspire someone to commit mass genocide, at worst, and they rationalize a huge waste of time and energy spent on the wrong solutions, at best. Articles like this one, while mentioning some of the underlying issues, such as the need to “reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.” note that the bold emphasis is on limiting population growth, as if that will have any meaningful impact on the underlying issues.

            But there is actually good news that is surprising to many people. Population growth is actually declining because birth rates have been declining pretty much everywhere, and now most families throughout the world have 2 surviving children on average. And so the remaining growth is mostly due to longer lifespans, not having more children.

            And more good news: We CAN make the necessary changes, to shut down the fossil fuel industry, replace our entire agricultural system, end deforestation and implement reforestration, and all the other critical issues, including restoration of the heavily damaged ocean ecology. We know how to do all these things, and in fact, we ARE starting to make many of these changes, so the question is how rapidly we realize what we really need to do and collectively make it happen!

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            Good to have a new voice on this thread! Here’s my perspective on this issue, as a professional ecologist, a Sierra Club member for almost 50 years, and head of a new population organization (SEPS).

            1) I’ve never met Harding but have signed on to this initiative because it is modest enough and focused enough as to actually achieve success in its primary goal of getting some worldwide agreement that every country needs to articulate its own population policy. There is no intent to coerce such policies or to dictate their content. Harding already has lots of excellent people on board with that focus, and so it is very unlikely to change. Many of us have decades of experience observing NGOs spin their wheels on utopian, every-thing-but-the-kitchen-sink initiatives that have accomplished nothing. Any alliance that has broad enough appeal to actually be influential has to have a narrow focus. One battle won, a different set of allies may be needed for the next one.

            2) The dynamics of any human population, like any plant or animal population, is a function of its age-specific schedule of birth rates, death rates, immigration rates and emigration rates.

            3) No national government will accept having its policies affecting those rates dictated by other countries or by supranational entities (e.g. UN, EU, ICC, WTO, etc.). When that is attempted you will get rebellion and/or war. Think of what the feckless actions and policies of Angela Merkel and the Brussels bureaucrats are inspiring the UK and many Eastern European countries to do. There are brilliant, informed leaders in every country in the world capable of developing their own coherent policy in the particular context of their own nation; they need no advice from us on its content.

            4) Though never or almost never labeled as “population policies,” every nation does have policies that directly and indirectly influence the aforementioned rates. Those policies typically are not now set by scientists, environmentalists, university academics, NGOs or humanitarians. They are set by buttoned-down and quiet plutocrats.

            5) You seem to focus only on climate change. But in my home region, Southern California, the massive damage to wildlife and wildlife habitat over the last half century has been due to population growth, not to increased greenhouse gas levels. And over the same period of time the massive damage to wildlife and wildlife habitat in Kenya has also been due almost entirely to population growth there. Neither country needs advice from the other as to how to deal with their respective issues and looming disasters. Both countries are capable of rapidly slowing their population growth rates if they wish.

            6) “population alarmists” is a meaningless but favorite term of the plutocrats and their lackeys (e.g. Wall Street Journal, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, etc.) and needs no further comment.

            7) The notion that persons arguing for rational national population policies “could inspire someone to commit mass genocide” is indeed “ALARMIST” in the extreme. If the persons are of any stature, have any integrity, it seems orders of magnitude more likely that all those countries with moderately rational leaders might actually move toward good policies!

            But if you don’t want to risk that…….

          • The focus I see by many people (too many, in fact) on reducing population growth, rarely if ever pointing out that the growth rate has already been on the decline for 30 years, as if population is a much more important factor than dealing directly with all the environmental destruction (and I by no means limit it to climate change), that is what makes such efforts truly alarmist. You can’t figure out how to avoid the environmental destruction any other way than to somehow eliminate the people who you believe are causing it. Must raise alarms about the population explosion at every opportunity.

            On the contrary, it is typically the capitalists drive to compete, ultimately controlled and manipulated by the plutocrats who are behind the exploitation of everything they can get their hands on, by whatever means necessary. And who would those who are doing the most exploitation blame, if not themselves? They blame the poor, the worthless eaters, and the most extreme victims of the exploitation.

            Your concern for the wildlife habits is admirable, but to blame the local populations for the exploits of a few is, again, blaming the victims. Who is behind housing developments that don’t regard the indigenous wildlife as having any value if it can’t make money for them? Who is behind the centuries of exploitation of the African people and their resources, thus driving whole towns and settlements to scrounge for any means just to survive?

            None of this is exploitation of nature and people is necessary. It is the freedom we give to an elite few to make their awful decisions that affect all of us, even to the extent of causing a century of war to tear us apart, when we most need to work together.

            Most nations are now under the control of those same elite few, who would prefer to manage the chaos that seems to be getting out of control. Having succeeded by exploiting others, they feel righteous in being more powerful, and work hard to ensure they maintain and grow that power. This can only get worse, until it falls apart one way or another. THAT should be alarming, not the vast majority of our population who want nothing more than to live in peace, and in harmony with their communities and nature.

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            Daniel, Your comments are very appropriately addressed to the plutocrats, but less so to those on this thread (at least those I know), as this small group has already made the decision to support a very focused initiative, one that you clearly think will be unproductive. But here are some places where you might rethink your positions.

            You say we shouldn’t focus on population growth because it “already has been on the decline for 30 years.” But if we continue to add a billion people to the planet for the next 50 years, you would be accurately saying the same thing half a century from now, as that trajectory would indeed reflect a continuing decline in the annual percent rate of growtth.

            The core problem is that population-wise the US and the world is in population overshoot, and going steadily downhill environmentally and otherwise even without any further population growth. Until the world population growth rate has gone slightly negative for a while, we will have a population crisis on our hands. And it needs wise attention now, at the same time we try to get rid of the evil plutocrats!

            And no one on this thread is proposing “eliminating people”, that is not what moderating birth rates or immigration rates is about.

          • “You say we shouldn’t focus on population growth because it “already has been on the decline for 30 years.” ” Not exactly. I raise the 30 year decline in growth rate because people who believe population growth is a problem seem unaware of this fact. The decline wouldn’t necessarily be enough, but in fact, it is a fairly rapid decline considering the huge momentum of population. The decline (and the underlying birth and death rates) is evidence that population growth is fairly self-correcting even without the policies you are proposing.

            The current rate of decline indicates that it could possibly reach 0 in another 50 years. But in 50 years, many other things will be changing dramatically as well, and we don’t have time to do much at all about population before it is too late.

            A core problem is that *environmentally*, we are in overshoot. You claim it is population overshoot, but that is the fundamental disagreement that I believe you need to understand. By calling it population overshoot, you are exposing your assumption that populations are inherently, necessarily and inescapably a negative factor on the environment. This assumption is the fundamental factual error that you are making that causes you to focus on population as a problem rather than look a little deeper to understand that we can and must deal with the environmental problems much more quickly, much more efficiently and effectively than merely trying to reduce the number of people in the hope that population reduction will translate into environmental preservation.

            I will make a longer argument later that focusing on population can actually make things worse in several possible ways. But I want to present just one of those ways here now.

            I have argued (elsewhere) that we can not only reduce the footprint of humanity substantially, much faster and more efficiently than we can reduce the population of humanity itself, but that we can in fact eliminate our footprint altogether, and we can do this in a very few decades, which is fortunate because that’s all the time we have. This would probably be a net zero footprint at first because it is difficult to eliminate all of our bad habits everywhere all at once, but we can balance out any small excesses in some parts with extra efforts in other parts.

            The basic reasoning behind what it takes to achieve zero footprint involves understanding energy and resource flows, and that shifting to 100% renewable energy and 100% recycling of all resources (which entails zero waste and zero pollution) changes everything.

            And in fact, we can go further, much further! Since we have available to us 1000s of times more clean renewable energy than we need for everything we are doing currently, we can keep building more clean energy than we need minimally and use that to power the clean up of our centuries of neglect.

            But notice another critical aspect of this argument. Once we reach zero footprint, where each person has, on average, no negative impact on the environment, that means that the number of people no longer factors into the equation. And going further, once we cross that threshold of zero footprint, each person, on average, is contributing more to cleaning up the environment than detracting from the environment, and thus more people would actually be a greater benefit to help make the cleanup process go even faster!

            But now imagine that we had to clean up the environment with only half as many people. That sounds like it would be twice as much work.

          • Stuart Hurlbert

            Daniel, your implicit assumption that individual nations can’t set and enforce their own population policies is counterfactual. There are no global population policies to discuss. All those countries, like the U.S. where population growth is currently driven by immigration can indeed achieve ZPG very quickly once power is taken out of the hands of the plutocrats and utopian globalists, a battle going on in the US this very week. It is politically feasible for the US to move to ZPG MUCH more rapidly than it can move to greatly reduced per capita resource consumption and waste generation rates. It is not clear that “political feasibility” enters into your calculations.

            To say that “population growth is fairly self-correcting” is meaningless because no one is saying or thinking that any population can grow infinitely. The difference between “rational pro-active policies” and “self-corrections” is the difference between promoting high standards of living and environmental protection and being willing to tolerate low standards of living (and much suffering and possible extinction) and high degrees of environmental destruction. This isn’t a computer game where your irrational choices simply put a smile on your opponents face.

            Where do you get the idea that an individual or a society can go to a “zero footprint” and perhaps even a negative one? You are neglecting all the different variables that contribute to our ecological footprint. In theory we could increase the number of wind turbines a thousand fold but their production consumes resources and generates wastes, and their operation chops up migratory birds. And how do you provide housing and physical infrastructure for billions of people and get down to a “zero footprint” on the lanscape and wildlife habitat?

          • If your concern is more about reducing apparent growth in one nation by reducing immigration, then consider that no matter where the people live, they still live in one nation or another. I’m not playing your game of pitting one nation against another.

            If the self-correction of population growth is comparable in numbers to what policies might impose, then it is hardly meaningless. But I would generally encourage policies that foster education, which results in reducing birth rate, reducing death rate, improving lives, etc. What’s missing is that without ALSO including the environmental factors, any reduction in population growth is pointless, and could actually make things worse. This is because improving lives generally encourages all the “development” that we have been doing so badly.

            Meanwhile, I claim that dealing with the environmental problems properly means that we don’t have to do much of anything with population. So what’s the better investment?

            If we want to encourage responsible behavior at all levels, from personal choices about whether to have children to, MUCH more significantly, whether corporations choose to dump waste into the environment, then there is one simple policy that I highly recommend: Account for the entire life cycle costs of all products.

            We also have enormous social and economic inequities, such that making the poorest pay even a small amount more to neutralize their relatively small footprint is a huge burden for them, but it would not be if everyone were required to account for the full life cycle costs of all products, including the added cost of welfare to support the poorest among us, the victims of most of our exploitation.

            You (and most population alarmists, it seems) clearly don’t understand how it is possible to achieve a zero footprint, and even a negative footprint (hence the panic about population). You claim I am neglecting many things, but no, it’s all included in the zero waste principle, including zero waste of ecological resources.

            Do you understand the idea that the cost of a wind turbine is recovered in a matter of months, because it produces more value than the cost of its production. Now, I would agree that not all the environmental costs are (typically) factored in, but let’s do that, let’s factor in the entire cost of avoiding or cleaning up whatever waste and pollution resulted from the production. After we do that, and we run the turbine for long enough to generate the energy to pay the entire cost, then we end up with a wind turbine that has a net zero footprint, and whatever else it produces after that is a net positive. The same is true for solar collectors, though the payback time is still a bit longer than for wind collectors.

            Given that basic idea of how 100% renewable energy can fuel a truly sustainable economy, where we produce more clean energy than we need, and use that excess to clean up everything else, can you now see how zero footprint is possible?

            We are currently so wasteful in all areas of life that it is difficult for many people to imagine how we could clean it all up. But I believe the key reason we are in this deplorable situation is that we are not paying the full life cycle cost of almost anything. Instead, we get away with dumping our problems into land fills, out the smoke stacks, downstream into the oceans, while outsourcing our livelihoods to the slave labor in the poorest countries. It becomes someone else’s problem, and indeed, many of us end up blaming someone else, the victims of all these problems rather than the perpetrators.

            We should be able to grow all the food we need in the space we live in, mostly within cities. This is absolutely technically feasible. We should be able to effectively enclose the cities to contain all our air and water use, to collect all the energy we need, and to recycle all our resources. It would be much like living in a space colony, entirely separate from any never-ending dependence on extracting resources from the home planet, or dumping our waste back onto it, once it has been built. Are you really saying this is never going to be possible?

          • Rob Harding

            Hi Daniel. You raise a good point about accounting for the full life cycle cost of all products. I agree that this would be very helpful and it makes a lot of sense. What I see missing is your proposal for how such a universal mandate would be adopted and then implemented. I don’t have an answer, and I also don’t believe that will ever happen.

            As for your comments about the zero waste principle, your theoretical claims about ever achieving “zero footprint” are batshit crazy. Your proposed transition to 100% renewable energy and 100% recycling of all resources to fuel a truly sustainable economy where population size somehow becomes irrelevant is a harmful pipe dream. I’m disappointed that you even offered such a fanciful suggestion in response to this thoughtful proposal which is a component of a broader effort to address both overpopulation and overconsumption globally.

            Lastly, your unwillingness to acknowledge immigration as a significant consideration suggests either cowardice or ignorance on this topic. Based on your comments in this thread, perhaps some of both.

          • I’m glad we agree about accounting for the full life cycle cost of all products. We can work on how to implement it, but I think most people should agree that every time we don’t account for the full life cycle cost and allow waste to be dumped, someone else still has to pay for it sooner or later, and the total accumulated cost can grow very large before nature finds a way to absorb the excess and balance things out.

            But you don’t believe it will ever happen? At all? How about partially? You don’t believe we can collectively agree that we have to do this or else we will continue to make things worse and worse until we still have to do it anyway, only it gets harder and harder the longer we wait? What’s stopping us? Who benefits by not doing this? Nobody really does benefit in the long run, though a few people do in the short term, those who are exploiting nature and other people at the expense of everyone else.

            Every other creature on earth manages to live in harmony with nature, only producing waste that is processed as food by other creatures. What’s different about humans that prevents us from doing that?

            Are you saying it is technically impossible to transition to 100% renewable energy? Or is it technically impossible to transition to 100% recycling of all resources?

            I’m not actually saying that, by reaching zero footprint, it no longer matters at all how many people we have, because that would allow an infinite number of people, and no, that’s not possible. But the number of people who could be supported in this way could be at least as large as the 9 to 11 billion we can expect to reach in the next few decades, and it could probably be much larger. The carrying capacity of the earth depends on how much we are loading it, and if we integrate ourselves into nature rather than being a burden on nature, we can actually promote more growth of nature as we grow with it.

          • Rob Harding

            You’re right, Daniel. Nobody benefits in the long run by continuing with business-as-usual. That’s what makes our current path towards ecological collapse so absurd. We will have to move in the direction of accounting for the full life cycle cost of products eventually, but it is more than just a few people benefiting from business-as-usual in the short term, and as we know some of these people have all the influence and power. Such a voluntary transition away from business-as-usual is going to be gradual if it happens at all (before it’s forced in myriad ways by nature). It’s why we need to work on both — scale back consumption, particularly in places where overconsumption persists, and scale back the size of the human population through voluntary means emphasizing gender equality, education, health, informed choice, and environmental stewardship. As Malcolm Potts so wisely shared, “contraceptives are the best development”. The thought alone of producing enough food to adequately feed 9-11 billion people using 100% renewable energy while also “integrating ourselves into nature” and “not being a burden on nature” is impossible.

            In response to your question “What’s different about humans that prevents us from doing that?”, which is a good question, I recommend reading Paul Ehrlich’s book, “Human Natures”, and also watching Nate Hagens latest presentation, found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2DpfsqjQbP0

          • I am watching the video, which is interesting, but there is nothing he is saying about how humans are fundamentally different from the rest of nature in a way that prevents us from behaving sustainably. Maybe you should watch it again.

            In fact, he says almost the opposite, by pointing out that the economy is powered by energy, just as all creatures are constrained by the energy available to them. If anything, the difference is only about scale, that we are able to exploit fossil fuels, and thus accelerate our growth until we run into limits that much sooner. He doesn’t talk much about renewable energy, though he does mention it is growing very rapidly.

            He claims that we can’t have a larger economy powered largely by renewable energy, but he doesn’t justify it. This is just a bogus claim. Nonsense. There is nothing stopping us from shutting down the entire fossil fuel industry and replacing it with 100% renewable energy. In fact, we are rapidly headed in that direction.

            You find it easier to constrain population, which takes many decades to change hardly at all, than to constrain irresponsible business practices, which we can change almost overnight if we decide to? I find that bizarre.

            I would agree that if we leave it up to voluntary action, it probably won’t happen. It does seem very likely that the self-interest of those in power will not wake them up in time to make a difference, because it seems they must give up their power one way or another. So it is up to all the rest of us to impose this on those in power, to take the power away from them and empower ourselves.

            You need to learn how transitioning to zero footprint is not only technically possible, but we are already moving in that direction because it is beginning to make more economic sense to do the right thing, so it is mostly a question of how fast we can make the transition, and who is slowing us down. https://www.scoop.it/t/zero-footprint

      • joeboosauce

        I prefer we not solve problems (often caused to greater degree by the West) at the pace the West prefers or as we can it “white people speed on issues that don’t really impact them but us.” By “us”, I am referring to the global south. And changing your guys’ plate seems hardly like demanding a lot… Unless you care more for your privilege than the well-being of others. Well, so it’s the case of economic and racial elites.

        • Stuart Hurlbert

          I don’t speak for the “West,” and you don’t speak for the “South,” if that’s where you’re from. If you think your nation or the individual nations of the “South” will fare better without rational population policies, then I can’t help you. If you want to discuss other topics, then this probably is a poor place to do it.

    • To realize that a sustainable population is even more important than a sustainable consumption please imagine the following two scenario’s:
      – You have a sustainable world of 10 billion people. In order to be ‘sustainable’ the footprint of each individual must be so low that all have to live a sober life in a busy world. As a result the quality of life is mostly low and equivalent to the middle class Indian. The freedom and rights of an individual are limited and growing to your full potential is only for the happy few. In order to sustain these 10 billion individuals all available land is in service of humanity. Nature has been limited to a few inhospitable places where only a few species find a refuge.
      – You have a sustainable world of 2 billion people. To be sustainable no extra measures must be taken and each enjoys a full life with a wealth of an average European. Each individual has enough room to grow its full potential. As only a part of the current land surface must be used, nature has regained most of its territory. Many species thrive within these reconquered areas.

      Note that in both scenario’s the world is sustainable but that there is a huge difference concerning everything else. If you prefer the first scenario than I cannot convince you but the chances are great that you prefer the second scenario (or at least for the sake of future generations). Having said this, over consumption must also be addressed but tackling this issue would be much easier if we had to control 2 billion people instead of 10 billion people. In fact, nearly every social or economic problem becomes much easier to fix.

      • This is NOT true: “In order to be ‘sustainable’ the footprint of each individual must be so low that all have to live a sober life in a busy world. As a result the quality of life is mostly low and equivalent to the middle class Indian. ” You are probably mixing all consumption in the same bucket, treating consumption of solar collectors the same as coal burning power plants.

        Some consumption is actually good for the environment, a net positive, so we need to replace all the bad consumption with good consumption. Then we can all but eliminate the footprint of all 10 billion of us with a high standard of living.

        • You ask, in an reply that has not shown up yet, for an example of consumption that is actually good for the environment. Because we are so bad at being responsible in most production and consumption, it should not be surprising that it is difficult to find such examples. However, it is absolutely possible, and it is easy to understand how this is the case if you look into the full life cycle of products.

          Consider a wind turbine that, once it has been produced, purchased and installed, as it generates electricity, the purchase cost is quickly recovered in a matter of months (around 1 year). Now if the purchase price included all the externalities of the production and installation of the wind turbine, then it will take a while longer to pay off the entire cost including all environmental costs. I don’t know how long that would be, but lets double or triple the cost.

          By paying the environmental cost for something, we want the money raised to be targeted at mitigating the environmental cost, by undoing any pollution that resulted. It will probably be cheaper to avoid creating any such pollution in the first place, and if so, paying the full cost will quickly motivate everyone to behave responsibly.

          After the full life cycle costs have been recovered, then all the remaining electricity produced by the wind turbine, several years worth at least, can be used for other things, producing other products that then have no additional externalities regarding the energy requirements. One example would be the production of more wind turbines.

          And once we have covered the full life cycle cost of energy for most products, we can continue producing more power which we use to start undoing the pollution that is already out in the environment from centuries of neglect. Consumption of wind turbines used in this way is clearly good for the environment. The same is true of solar panels, though the full life cycle cost is a bit more.

          Similarly, while consumption of products produced from recycled materials avoids adding more environmental cost, if the products are produced from previously land-filled waste, then we can begin to undo that waste, which is clearly good for the environment.

          Also, food and wood can actually be produced in a way that improves soil rather than degrades it. Plants are sequestering carbon from the atmosphere, after all, so we mostly just need to hold on to the extra carbon, incorporating it into the soil and building materials in various ways. Sequestering excess atmospheric carbon is clearly good for the environment.

          There are many other examples of ways we can improve the environment, and gain some benefit from the environment at the same time. There is generally no need to reduce our quality of life, though the transition will take some time, and we have very little time to spare, if any. Once we catch up and get closer to zero footprint, we should actually be able to use all the excess renewable energy available to us to vastly improve the quality of life for everyone.

          It is also critical to understand that we can do all of this much faster (a few decades) compared to the time it will take to reduce the size of the population by a fraction that might help the environment, if at all (many decades just to reduce by half).

          • It is true that the production of some things are better for the environment than the production of other things but my point is that it is always better for the environment to produce less. For example: producing one wind turbine is better for the environment than producing ten wind turbines. The same with all other ‘green’ tech. If you want green tech for all 12 billion soles you won’t have enough resources to make them (or you will need so many factories, infrastructure, etc… that there wouldn’t be much place left for nature).

            Whatever humans make is destructive for the environment, however ‘green’ it is told to be. It is always better to not produce it (except growing biomass like wood to use your example, but there the merits go to nature – and not to us – as it is a natural produce). What is good for the human economy is bad for Earth’s ecology, a civilization is by definition unsustainable. There are situations where it seems we have a win-win but than again: imagine if we simply did not have to produce it so that we can give back to nature. Why make it difficult when we can have better with less trouble?

            The time we need to achieve all this is irrelevant, we do not have a deadline. OK, the faster the solution for climate change is the better but a difference of 50 years (or 0,1°C) won’t make a big difference. And population activists are already shouting for over 60 years so blaming them for their ‘slow’ solution is a bit… foolish.

            Again, you can make the world sustainable by impoverishing our lifestyles to simple existence. There is nothing difficult about it. We can all say that this isn’t true but I refuse to be put in a tiny apartment in a city, driving electric cars built from finite resources, eating industrial food (we can’t do without industrial agriculture if we want to feed 12 billion individuals). The more people you have to share the cake with the smaller your piece, you cannot change physical laws.

            I want to thank you for your honest and correct replies. Most of the time population activists get replies from frustrated, mean and angry people. You may be all this but it doesn’t show in your answers :-).

          • You claim that “producing one wind turbine is better for the environment than producing ten wind turbines” and “Whatever humans make is destructive for the environment, however ‘green’ it is told to be.”. This shows that you are still missing the fundamental concept I am trying to get across. I think most people actually are missing this
            concept, even many environmentalists. But it is essential that we understand how we can actually improve the environment as we “use” very little of the resources available to us.

            But you do seem to understand the example of growing wood in a way that is a net positive, so there is some hope. Maybe you need to explain why you think it can be a net positive.

            To be clear, I am not talking about producing things that are merely less bad, less negative, which is the case for most things that are called “green” now, I agree. I am talking about accounting for the full life cycle costs of producing and recycling all resources, including all environmental costs, so that they are at least net zero, and many products can be actually be a net positive for the environment. This is absolutely allowed by physics, not a trick at all.

            So let’s focus on how this is possible with wind turbines. It really does start with the fact that we can produce more energy than we need to produce the wind turbine itself, and then we will have extra energy to produce more things without any additional negative contribution for the energy requirements. Please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_wind_power#Net_energy_gain

            Note that it says, for example, “Wind turbine manufacturer Vestas
            claims that initial energy “pay back” is within about 7–9 months of
            operation for a 1.65-2.0MW wind power plant under low wind conditions”. This does not include the environmental costs, but the next section says “Wind power externality costs were found to be 0.09 – 0.12c€/kW” and “these are negligible costs in comparison to the cost of electricity production, which is approximately 10 c€/kWh in European countries.” That would mean that paying the additional externality costs would be just 1% (0.1c€ out of 10 c€) of the revenue that it generates. Easy and quick!

            So would you agree that this is a valid argument, and that the environmental cost of the wind turbine, being almost negligible, can be taken care of? If you read further in that article, you’ll notice that even the current environmental costs of wind turbines can probably be almost eliminated, since most of the cost is from the concrete in the base, which can be produced in a carbon neutral way. (I would add another link but that will slow down the post.)

            And would you agree that after paying the full life cycle cost of the wind turbine (in less than 2 years), then there is lots of extra energy (at least 18 years worth) produced in an entirely clean way? And would you agree that we can use this clean energy to produce other products in a way that is net zero regarding the energy requirements? And would you agree that we can use some of this extra clean energy to clean up the environment, remove the wastes we have dumped and turn them into more products?

            And would you agree that we can account for the full life cycle cost of all our production processes, and require that all “waste” from the production process and when products finally reach the end of their useful life be recycled into other products, such that very little new raw resources will be required? I hope you understand that this is at least possible, and it is mostly up to us to ensure that it happens by imposing these common sense accounting restrictions on ourselves.

          • Hi, I do understand your point. You consider full life-cycle analysis but the problem with such analysis is that the parameters are reduced to (most of the time) three parameters: currency, amount of CO2 emissions and consumed energy in kWh. The pollution from the production and recycle process cannot be reduced to such a limited set of units. Only consider the highly toxic chemicals used in extracting, processing and manufacturing the many different kind of metals used for a wind turbine. The wind turbine is a relatively harmless product as it uses less special metals per kWh produced than solar panels. Solar panels, electric batteries and LED require many more special resources that are very demanding for the environment. But OK, lets just say that these amounts are negligible. A streamlined production and recycle process can be made possible for many/most technologies that we need to make the world more sustainable and less demanding. I also consider them crucial and necessary too. I like wind power and I think it is the most sustainable energy tech available, together with concentrated solar power (not PV solar!) and hydro (not in all cases!).

            But my point I want to make is: that the ‘population size’ factor is much more fundamental than the ‘individual impact’ factor in the I = PAT formula. That is all I wanted to say. Yes, efficiency must be increased and consumption decreased but only after population size has been addressed (or at the same time). A wind turbine produced through a super-duper-ultra-mega clean process is still more demanding for the environment than producing no wind turbine at all. The most environmental-friendly energy is the energy that you did not consume. I think you can agree with me on that?

            I think our positions are not in conflict. You are talking about how we can produce things with a minimal impact for the environment. Very important that we ask ourselves this question. But I am talking about how we don’t have to produce it in the first place.

          • The full life cycle costs need to consider ALL environmental costs. CO2 is just one of the more important things to consider at this time, but we must include everything. Wind turbines can be built without permanent magnets, thus avoiding the use of special metals. But whatever metals might be used in any technology, it needs to be mined in ways that account for all the wastes that would be produced. The smelting of ores to make metals, the entire chemical engineering process, all water used, all exhaust from factories, everything must be factored in. And once we get enough materials into production, and start recycling all the materials from old products back into new products, then we will not need as much new raw materials.

            All processes, all energy sources, everything we do can contribute to being at least net zero, and in many cases, net positive. But we have to realize what we are doing and take responsibility for it. The only reason we are being net negative now is that we dump pollution into the environment at every step of the way, and we just say, oh well, that’s a fact of life that can’t be avoided.

            And so it APPEARS that the AT in I = PAT is always a negative factor on the environment, ignoring that different products can have a positive or negative impact on the environment depending on how they were produced, and moreover, ignoring that different people can have a positive or negative impact on the environment depending on how they are living, which products they choose to support, and whether they have governments that require businesses to account for the full life cycle cost of all products.

            You say “You are talking about how we can produce things with a minimal impact for the environment. “. But no, I am going much further than that. I am talking about how we can produce things with not just a *minimal negative* impact for the environment, but a *maximal positive* impact.

            I suspect you are missing the fact that when we pay for the full life cycle cost of products, the fraction of the money that is covering the environmental costs must be used to undo the negative environmental effects. That is, if some product exhausts CO2 into the atmosphere, then the cost of removing that CO2 from the atmosphere must be included in the total cost of the product, and the money from that fraction of the cost must be used to *actually remove the CO2 from the atmosphere*. The result of doing that, actually undoing all of the negative environmental impact, is that we end up with zero (0) environmental impact.

          • I just realized that I can summarize my whole point in one sentence: the most sustainable energy is the energy that you don’t have to produce. I think we can agree on that? 😉

            That is why overpopulation is my primary concern.

          • No, I don’t agree with that. You are still thinking of being merely less bad, but ignoring the possibility of doing more good. The most sustainable energy would be a net positive energy source, one that actually improves the environment as we get some energy from it. More specifically, it would be something that extracts a waste product from the environment (such as growing plants that extract CO2 from the atmosphere) that we have previously thrown away, gets some energy from it (e.g. from biofuel), and doesn’t put as much of the waste back into the environment (when we burn the biofuel, but after we have sequestered some of the carbon from the plant).

          • So you consider some forms of technology as ‘pollution vacuum cleaners’: removing previous pollution during the production and recycle process of new things so that the total net result is zero or positive. Reminds me of the air-powered car that sucks polluted air during charging and releases cleaner air during driving.

            I don’t deny the existence of such technology/processes. But – I’m playing the lawyer of the devil here – wouldn’t it still be better if we didn’t have that pollution in the first place? So we don’t have to clean up? For cleaning up today’s mess? -> The most efficient ‘pollution vacuum cleaner’ is time and natural processes in my opinion. There are some types of pollution that cannot – or very difficult – be sequestrated by natural processes and there we would indeed have to build pollution vacuum cleaners.

            (Concerning your other reply)
            I agree that all costs must be taken into account in the price of products. This would result in much more expensive stuff which will reduce consumption and increase sustainability. We live in a time where stuff is ridiculously cheap. We also have to realize that many things could actually have a net negative impact after we make life-cycle analysis of everything and that they therefore have to be removed from sale or made so expensive that only a few rich people can buy it (if it would still be allowed).

            Not every product/process can have a net positive impact so your point would only be applicable to the part that can. My logic of ‘less is better’ would be applicable to all net negative/zero impact products/processes.

            Am I getting closer to your point? Although I am an engineer I have difficulty understanding technofixers…

            But my opinion remains: the largest *net positive impact* that a person can do is reducing its offspring. The impact would still be greater than dedicating all your time and money in cleaning up this messed up world in ‘net positive impact’ tech/processes/organization forms. Although both are necessary of humanity wishes to take its responsibility.

          • You ask “wouldn’t it still be better if we didn’t have that pollution in the first place?” It usually would be better, yes, but I was talking about a technology that would clean up previously existing pollution, in order that it might be net positive, so it doesn’t help to say it would be better if we didn’t have that pollution in the first place.

            Going forward, whether it is cheaper to avoid creating new pollution with newly produced products or clean up the pollution that the production or products create, that depends on the products and kind of pollution. In the case of gas powered internal combustion engine vehicles, for example, it might be cheaper to burn the gas in vehicles as we currently do, but pay the extra cost to have the CO2 emissions removed from the atmosphere in a more centralized non-mobile facility. There are studies showing it could be as cheap as 25 cents per gallon of gas to remove the CO2 generated from burning it, but it can’t be done on each vehicle so cheaply.

            You might ask, how do we determine what the environmental cost of pollution should be? There is an easy answer: whatever it costs to clean up that pollution. But how do we determine what that cleanup cost is? We could create a market for businesses to bid on cleaning up the pollution, with the cheapest bid winning, assuming it is a reliable bid, and the cleanup is verified.

            How expensive everything will become once we are paying the full cost is an open question, since we have very little experience doing so. It might not be very expensive at all, actually, but we are just so bad at it now that we haven’t seriously considered how to do it. In many cases, we will probably discover we can reduce waste (and pollution) and save money at the same time. There certainly could be some products that turn out to be too expensive to market, in which case we don’t have to outlaw these products since the market would take care of eliminating them. The one general rule is: pay the full life cycle costs.

            Any product that could be made net zero could probably be made net positive with very little additional effort. It’s just a matter of adding in a little bit more to the cleanup cost. Any product that can’t be made net zero, by paying the full cost, and survive in the market will simply not be available.

            I think you are close to getting my point. But I suspect your doubt that this is possible is still clouding your reasoning in the following points.

            What I am suggesting is hardly a technofix. If anything, it is primarily an economic fix, by requiring that we account for the externalities that businesses have so far been getting away with for free. And in doing so, we can actually use capitalism to help resolve our problems more quickly, by effectively and automatically funding the innovations required to avoid or cleanup pollution in direct proportion to wherever it is needed.

            Less consumption is not necessarily better if, by including both negative and positive environmental impact in the same bucket, we end up reducing all consumption and thus reducing our quality of life. We need to reduce all the consumption that has negative effects on the environment to the point of elimination, and an easy way to do that is to neutralize the negative effects by paying the cost of cleaning up or avoiding the pollution. To avoid shocking the market too much too rapidly, we can impose this ‘full life cycle cost’ rule incrementally, gradually increasing the neutralizing costs over a decade or two.

            I’m hoping you are beginning to see that it is not so difficult, in theory, to convert our current destructive practices into constructive practices. Given that it is technically and economically possible, how quickly we can switch over and basically replace almost all of our current technology is the next question. But consider that almost everything we are currently using breaks down in a very few decades, so we will be building new things to replace them anyway, so we might as well be doing it the right way going forward. In contrast, we live, on average, more than 60 years and therefore, the size of the population changes very slowly in comparison to how long it will take us to change the economy and replace all of our technology.

            In fact, once we do switch over to full life cycle cost accounting and we fully enforce the net-zero footprint rules, then the AT in I = PAT will be 0, and that means the number of people will no matter. But since we can go a little further to make the AT actually negative, meaning we will have a net positive impact on the environment, that means that having more people will actually help us multiply our positive environmental impact and repair the damage even faster.

            You argued in another reply that leaving nature alone would be the fastest way to let it recover. I strongly disagree. It will take 100s of years for nature on its own to balance out the excess CO2 we have introduced, almost doubling the natural levels. This will continue to cause enormous chaos and devastation of many ecosystems. We don’t have 100s of years to wait, but we can do what needs to be done much more quickly, in a matter of a few decades, if we direct our efforts at cleaning things up rather than making them worse.

          • What you suggest is to clean op the house by using better or more brooms while the water tap is still open. I agree that your economic fix suggestion works in theory (make the total net effect of an individual on the environment – during its entire life – positive through an economy that keeps track of all types of costs) but I have difficulty thinking about it in practice. The only world where I can see it working is a ‘Flintstones’ world where the most polluting tech is a foot-powered car. Also this net positive effect will only be there if you have to clean up already produced pollution. Once we arrive in the ‘permanent state’ condition this cleaning up mechanism would not work anymore (in best case you can undo what the individual destroys but the total amount of destruction would still be huge – the law of entropy is still there). The effects of this mechanism on the market (what would be available at what price, etc…) is very hard to predict in my opinion.

            I prefer to clean up the house by first closing the water tap. I realise that a worldwide birth control policy is very unrealistic but not as unrealistic as your economix fix (again, my opinion). A universal one-child policy would reduce world population to the sustainable level of +- 2 billion people in about 100 years. So the time aspect is not a problem in my opinion. We don’t have a deadline, climate change will happen.

            Anyway, the current economic system must drastically change. Taking into account all the environmental (and social !!) costs would be a great leap forward. But I do not believe that this economix fix would solve the sustainability problem of our world. But thanks for your explanation and patience. I will try to think how such a mechanism can make ourselves net positive contributors in this world (how impossible it is in my opinion). It’s a way of thinking that I didn’t care to think about.

  • Sailesh Rao

    The Bioscience article endorsed by the international assembly of scientists is intellectually dishonest on the issue of Global Animal Agriculture:


    There is no compassionate way to eliminate human population growth without dismantling and replacing our entire socioeconomic system with a new system based on compassion for all creation. This makes the global Vegan movement the greatest social justice movement of all time.

    Without such whole systems change, UN initiatives on population merely provide intellectual cover for the ongoing ecocide and the ongoing slow genocide of millions of people, especially People of Color (PoC).

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      Sailesh, if we can’t get all nations to agree that each should have a coherent, rational population policy, how could be ever get them all to sign on to a statement demanding “replacement of our entire socioeconomic system.” Ideally, national population policies should take into consideration what is going on in other countries, of course, We can’t just hope for a wise, compassionate UN commission that will develop social and economic policies and then IMPOSE them on all nations. That’s the route taken by the EU bureaucrats in Brussels and we see how well that is working out!

      • Sailesh Rao

        I doubt that nations will agree to a replacement of our entire socioeconomic system. People need to do this from the grassroots.

        Our current socioeconomic system is literally destroying the planet. Here’s a list of changes to move us to a new socioeconomic system that is compatible with a thriving planet:

        Economic Principles:
        1. Unfettered Growth -> Development (V)
        2. Transaction Economy -> Gift Economy
        3. Fiat Currency -> Ecological Currency
        4. Fossil Fuels -> Renewable Energy
        5. Grid-based -> Off-Grid
        6. Planned Obsolescence -> Robust Durability
        7. Industries based on Compulsion -> Industries based on Volunteerism
        8. Commodification of Life -> Decommodification (V)
        9. Conspicuous Consumption -> Conscious Simplicity (V)

        Social Principles:
        10. Rising Inequality -> Guaranteed Equality
        11. Individualistic -> Community Oriented
        12. Competition -> Collaboration
        13. Hierarchical -> Cooperative and Consensual
        14. Secrecy and Lies -> Openness and Truth
        15. Endless War -> Durable Peace (V)
        16. Selfishness and Greed -> Selflessness and Contentment (V)
        17. Exclusivity -> Radical Inclusion (V)
        18. Concentration of Power -> Distributed Power
        19. Domination/Control relating -> Partnership/Respect relating (V)

        Ecological Principles:
        20. Monocultures -> Biodiversity (Food Forests) (V)
        21. Climate Destruction -> Climate Healing (V)
        22. Ecological Overshoot -> Authentic Sustainability (V)
        23. Scarcity -> Abundance (V)
        24. Death dealing -> Life enriching (V)

        Spiritual Principles:
        25. Animal Slavery -> Freedom for all (V)
        26. Deliberate Cruelty -> Compassion for all Life (V)
        27. Carnism -> Veganism (V)
        28. Religious Divisions -> Acceptance of all faiths and non-belief traditions
        29. Ego Centric -> Eco Centric (V)
        30. Fear of Death -> Love of Life (V)

        More than half these changes, tagged with (V), are effected when we go Vegan, which makes going Vegan the single most effective action that we can take to trigger this change in the socioeconomic system and thus, heal the planet.

  • William Dowling

    As an Associate member of MAHB and a Guarantor member of Population Matters (a NODE member) I am 100% berhind you on this. I will do my utmost to gain Population Matters full backing as an organisation and also try to persude more of our members to join MAHB as Associates, as well as support you on this excellent initiative.
    As it happens, I have almost finished compiling a database of all the Population and Sustainablity concerned NGOs in the world. This lists links to websites, e-mail addresses, telephone numbers and some contact names. Obviously, these all need to be approached for their support.ASAP.

    From which this question arises: Who is best equipped to do that most persuasively?

    i am personally willing to help you in any way I can.
    I look forward to hearing from you.

    • Stuart Hurlbert

      William, your database will be a fantastic resource for all. Hopefully it will soon be up on the PM website, along with a printable pdf version.

      May I suggest a datum to be added for each organization if you have not already thought of it? Many kinds of organizations talk about the need to slow population growth. But maybe, via a word, letter or other symbol, you could make clear for each whether 1) it opposes, at least by its actions, development of a national population policy, or 2) supports development of a national population policy but only in very general terms, or 3) supports development of a national population policy and also makes specific suggestions for some key elements of it.

      The psychological impact of the list, and potentially its impact on evolution of organization’s philosophies, might be maximized by having your big list organized under these three categories.

      Along the same lines, you might try to get more organizations to sign on to PM’s earlier statement cum graph of world popn, and make this more available on the PM website. Last I checked SEPS and PMC are the only US signatories. SEPS has been distributing this at scientific meetings in the US for five years now.

      • William Dowling

        Thanks for the input Stuart. My database is still very much a work in progress. I agree that carefully classifying what each organisation stands for is most important, and I am attempting to do something like that.
        Perhaps you would like to help me complete this analysis?
        If you give me your e-mail address I will mail you a copy as it stands now.
        The current listing of other organisations on the PM website is not far
        off correct and almost up to date, with very few errors nad omissions. But it only
        gives a link to each website. I am dubious that PM will undertake to
        provide any more information on each organisation than what it does now on their website,
        but I can only pursue this once the sort of classification you suggest is much nearer to completion. .
        I must say that few are as focussed on a national population policy as you are!
        The biggest problem I have found is the time it take to
        find all this out, and then correctly and carefully categorise it.This is aggravated
        by some websites being in foreign languages with translation problems, particularly in Europe.
        Some are also clearly very small one man bands, with facebook pages only, Some are very localised with their concerns particularly in the USA, and some are almost solely consumed by
        immigration issues.So might as well be ignored. Many are reiterating the most common messages on sexual and reproductive health and education of women and easy access to family planning advice and contraception etc. Important though birth rate reduction is in poor countries, this lacks sufficient focus on tackling the current huge problems we have right now –
        1. Overpopulation.in poor countries,
        2 Migration of poor people leading to.Overpopulation in rich countries.
        3. Gross Overconsumption by most people in all the rich countries
        (I see we are rightly being slated elsewhere for rather ignoring no.3!)

        Have you read the book by Karen Shragg – “Move Upstream – to solve overpopulation”? In chapter 13 she points oit that trying to get population concerned NGOs to agree sufficiently to persude them to work togerther in order to make a greater impact is “like herding cats”. And she was only looking within the USA!
        If we cannot persuade these organisations to agree amongst themselves on both the scale of the problem now, and on what needs to be done about it, I dont see how we can ever expect to persuade what must be over well over 7 billion people, who dont even recognise that there is a problem,to do anything.much about it.

      • William Dowling

        Stuart. I see you are on the SEPS Board of Directors. If you let me have your e-mail address I will send you the latest update on this database.
        I have found filling in the last column – Core Message – the hardest.
        There is far less in common than I would like to see. The most common is SRHR and the education of women. Very few express a national population policy as a goal, let alone make distinctions like you suggest possible.
        I doubt whether I will persuade PM to take responsibility for all this data being posted on the PM website. I supect all they will agree to is an update to the list of the names and links to their websites, as on the website already.

        Personally I was more interested in finding out how many if any recognise that we are actually in an overpopulation situation ( i.e we now need rapid population reduction not more rapid population growth reduction) and so would support a far more drastic reduction in birth rates . I was hoping some were leaning towards “acieving a maximum of two ASAP and preferably one – child on average” – which is what we realy need now.
        The answer to that is – only three that I know of -World Population Balance, Growthbusters and the Centre for Biological Diversity.openly support a move towards one child.
        I agree PM does not promote its joint position statement enough , and that this list could help. But wouldn’t it be better to prepare the joint position statement that Rob Harding mentions in his proposal and get support for that now?
        Do you think the PM one a good start point for gaining widespread support?

  • Andrew Gaines

    Hi Rob − Great project!

    As you request at the end of the article, I will email Mitchell Toomey to register my support for you to receive the Connector Award.

    I urge others on this thread to do so as well: support@sdgactioncampaign.org.
    Rob is very competent; let’s support our own!

    I also appreciated the link to Haydn Washington’s article in the Chinese Journal of Population Resources and Environment; it made my understanding of population denial more nuanced.

    I hope you get the Connector Award!



    Andrew Gaines

    Accelerating the Great Transition to a life-affirming global culture!

  • stevenearlsalmony

    Hello Rob Harding, Your framework is well done and deserves consideration by everyone who genuinely intends to move forward along a sustainable path to the future. The time has past for half-truths and half-measures as well as for the conscious and deliberate denial of the best available science of human population dynamics/overpopulation. Human overpopulation of Earth has precipitated a global predicament. The way I see things each and every elder has both a responsibility as well as a duty to do whatever we can to speak out about what somehow could be real, according to ‘the lights’ and best available science we possess. Thus far my generation of elders has shown itself to be unready and unwilling to confront the fearsome global challenge posed by “too much food, too many people on a finite planet” that you see looming ominously before the human family and life as we know it. If we choose to follow you and take this path, then we can securely hope for the best. I remain hopeful that a sustainable way to the future will be found and taken; that your young child will live a good life, in a wondrous like the one you and I inhabit, and not inherit or else “reap the whirlwind” his elders appear to be in the process of manufacturing for him and coming generations.

    It is unadulterated fantasy and extraordinary hubris for the rich and powerful leading elders among us to believe that they are “masters of the universe.” None of us can realistically lay claim to such status. Humans are wondrous and miraculous beings, but we are evolving creatures of Earth. In all our human-ness we have stumbled into a very serious predicament that appears to be of our own making. If we choose to own our marvelous creatureliness as well as our singular attributes as humans, there is no doubt that human beings can deliberately undo any knot that we have inadvertently tied.

    Then we can take necessary steps collectively by responding ably to any human-forced existential threat to future human well being and environmental health. A first step: immediately provide universal, free, safe, easily accessible, voluntary male contraception.

    The ease with which patriarchal societies burden females alone with the whole task of restraining births is the greatest unfairness of my lifetime. Now here males must become equally engaged by acknowledging, addressing and overcoming the human population explosion. Historically, males have behaved in woefully inadequate, irresponsible ways when it comes to moving forward sustainably. Elder males and all self-proclaimed masters of the universe in my generation can claim responsibility for mortgaging the future of children everywhere and stealing their birthright.

    Rob, it pleases me to see you step forward and face the “mother” of all human-induced global challenges. That is to say, you are speaking out and calling for action to address a problem the leading elders in my generation have failed to confront sensibly and reasonably precisely because of the willful refusal of experts to examine the extant ecological science of human dynamics/overpopulation. You have chosen a colossal task. Regardless of the obstacles that will most assuredly be present along your path, please do keep going. Very best to you and success in all your endeavors.

  • Eric Rimmer

    Nice job, Rob – we should discuss.
    And perhaps you could let me/us know exactly how you calculate “1 child, on average”, please ?
    Eric Rimmer