Solutions to overpopulation and what you can do

| February 27, 2019 | Leave a Comment

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Date of Publication: February 22, 2019

Author(s): The Overpopulation Project

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Here at The Overpopulation Project, we try to keep a positive outlook. Although many environmental trends are grim, there exist clear paths forward toward a more sustainable world: one where people steward resources for the future and share habitat and resources generously with other species.

Recently, a correspondent wrote challenging us to identify solutions to the demographic and environmental problems we write about. We appreciate the reminder to remain forward looking and in response share the ideas below. Obviously, no one person or organization can cover all these efforts. But each of us can do something and together we can create a sustainable world.

These are personal and policy suggestions that we and others study. Some points are obvious, others fairly well established, but all need more research. If you are a scientist or scholar, one of the most important actions to take is to address population matters in your research, or join other researchers who are doing so.

What suggestions would you add or take off this list? Which ideas need further research? We would love to hear from you!

Actions on the individual level

  • Have fewer children! One is good, two is enough – read more here
  • Consider adoption!
  • Read, educate yourself about population issues – read more here
  • Reduce your personal consumption: go vegan, limit flying, share your household with others, and more
  • Educate your teenage child(ren) about sex and contraception early, without taboos
  • Spread your knowledge and concern among your friends and family, raise awareness about overpopulation on social media – read more here
  • Donate to family planning programs in your own or other countries – for example to International Planned ParenthoodFP2020 or another equally deserving organization
  • Vote for politicians who acknowledge the detrimental impacts of population growth and propose political solutions

Small families for climate's sake

Actions on the community level

  • Join local environmental groups, encouraging them to “connect the dots” between population and the environment and address population issues
  • Write opinion pieces for local newspapers, contact local media sources requesting more reporting on population issues – create demand!
  • Municipalities should set growth management boundaries, discouraging sprawl development on their fringes
  • Towns and cities should purchase surrounding lands, or the development rights to such lands, in order to set them aside as nature preserves and open space
  • City councils should pass resolutions accepting limits to growth, and directing their national governments to develop policies to stabilize or reduce national populations

Sign agreement


Actions on the national level

In high fertility developing countries, governments should … 

  • Generously fund family planning programs
  • Make modern contraception legal, free and available everywhere, even in remote areas
  • Improve health care to reduce infant and child mortality
  • Restrict child marriage and raise the legal age of marriage (minimum 18 years)
  • Introduce obligatory education as long as possible (minimum until the age of 16), and generously fund the necessary infrastructure

school girls

In low fertility developed countries, governments should … 

  • Embrace rather than fight aging and shrinking societies – read more here
  • Reorganize pensions and other socio-economic systems to accommodate aging societies
  • Eliminate baby bonuses, government funding for fertility treatments, and other incentives to raise fertility rates
  • Reduce immigration numbers (at least to a level that will stabilize national populations, preferably to one that will lower them) – read our blog here
  • Reduce resource consumption and pollution through an effective mix of taxes, incentives and regulations

small family


In every country, governments should … 

  • Empower women, assuring equal rights, treatment and opportunities for both genders
  • Provide information and access to reproductive health care, including all types of low cost, safe, effective contraception – read more here
  • Make sterilization free, for men and women, or at least covered under all healthcare plans
  • Legalize abortion without restrictions or social stigma – read our blog here
  • Integrate family planning and safe motherhood programs into primary health care systems
  • Make population and environmental issues and sex education part of the basic educational curriculum
  • Disincentivize third and further children non-coercively, by limiting government support to the first two children
  • Create a national population policy built around an optimal population size, and work to achieve it
  • Set aside half the national landscape free from intensive development and dedicated to biodiversity protection – read more here

Contraception info

Actions on the global level

  • Make “ending population growth” one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals – read our blog here
  • Greatly increase the amount of foreign aid going to family planning – learn more here
  • Change the current foreign aid distribution, giving more support for health and education, while ending international military aid – read more here
  • Global religious leaders should approve modern contraception methods and forcefully reject a fatalistic view of procreation – read more here
  • Financially support media programs designed to change social norms to bolster family planning, best example is Population Media Center
  • Hold a new global population conference, the first in twenty-five years, to reaffirm the ecological need to limit human numbers and the basic human right to family planning
  • Connect family planning to international environmental and development funding; e.g., include family planning in the Green Climate Fund
  • Create a new global treaty to end population growth, with all countries choosing population targets every half decade with a plan on how to achieve them (similar to the NDC format) – read our blog here
  • Create an online platform similar to the ClimateWatch platform, where visitors can see countries’ goals, plans and achievements to date
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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.
  • Arnold Byron

    You have listed a whole bunch of things that can be done. I don’t regard any of them as solutions. To me the solution to the crises that humanity is facing is on a different level. The one bullet point that I see as coming closest to being regarded as a solution is the following: Create a new global treaty to end population growth, with all countries choosing population targets every half decade with a plan on how to achieve them (similar to the NDC format) – read our blog here.

    You acknowledge that the crises are global in scope. This means that the solution must be global in scope. Take a look at democratic governance. A city has a City Council and a Mayor. A state has a Legislature and a Governor. A nation has a Parliament and a Prime Minister. The world has a – the world doesn’t have governance. The solution is to create an Association of Nations and a Global Office so that there will be democratic governance on a global scale to solve global problems.

    The administrators of a global office would be engaged with ordering and coordinating all of the suggestions in the article. It seems evident to me that none of these ideas have been initiated in the past because there has not been a global authority; and realistically, there will be no initiation until a global authority is in place

    My idea of a solution is as follows. We need two global authorities: The United Nations to keep the peace among nations and a global office, with limited authority, to be in charge of solving overpopulation, global warming and probable nuclear disaster. The first step to getting a global office is to get an association of nations. We will need to call upon the colleges and universities of the world to join together in an association of colleges and universities so that they can build a framework for an association of nations and a global office. After the association of colleges and universities have built the framework, they will have to promote their work to the nations and encourage its adoption. The association of colleges and universities may have to seek out the most prominent people in the world to help the nations decide to accept this new paradigm in governance.

    To build the framework the association of colleges and universities can work with the departments. The law departments can write the charters, treaties, laws and rules that will be needed to set up the global office. The Science and engineering departments can put their expertise and creativity to work to help the global office and the nations deal with removing carbon dioxide, ending the use of fossil fuels, and dismantling everything nuclear; and the comparative religion and humanities departments can aid the global office in reaching negative zero population growth.

    A global office will become a super large thing with sub-offices throughout the world. It must not be allowed to become a dictatorship or autocratic in any way. The United Nations would be a buffer against that kind of thing. The administration of a global office must be a committee large enough to vote down any autocratic notions. I suggest it be a committee of twelve elected people: six from the science departments and engineering departments and six from the comparative religion and humanities departments of colleges and universities worldwide. Please see to see how I have laid this out in previous blog articles.

    My idea of a solution is to put some entity in charge. This is where we all need to put our energy.

    • Greeley Miklashek

      Mr. Byron’s recommendations are familiar to me and always suggest authoritarian solutions by anybody but himself. This has become the standard American approach: pie-in-the-sky recommendations for others and no responsibility for Mr. Byron. Phoey!

      • Hi Greeley,
        What would be your suggestion for an approach or a specific strategy to address overpopulation? We appreciate Mr. Byron sharing his ideas with the MAHB community. Although we may not agree with them all entirely, the MAHB is a space that is open to anyone to share their perspectives. We encourage responses to be critical of the idea and not the person, allowing everyone to engage in polite constructive conversation.

        • Greeley Miklashek

          Authoritarianism has never worked in any venue, except FOX NEWS and the Trump admin., and that is bound to fail. My approach, which is spelled out clearly in my book, which you said you’d read, is a worldwide VOLUNTARY one-child family led by free women, with ready open access to higher education (not the current 7 years), ready access to meaningful work, and ready access to safe, effective, inexpensive birth control. Such a movement, which I am constantly promoting wherever I can find a means to do so, will bring the human population back down to a just sustainable (by current Western standards and iff we are all vegans!) 1950 level of 2.5B by 2,100. My criticism of Mr. Byron is generic and not personal. We Americans have become lazy and more infantilized, always looking for Big Brother to solve our problems, as we make another trip to Walmart in our SUV, while planning our next “get-away” jet flight to some resort island. We have become the problem that is killing the earth, and we all must accept responsibility for our part in the murder. Personally, I moved into a university town with good public transportation, drive little in my 16yo VW Golf, burn 10 gals. of gas a month, never fly, walk almost daily in the adjoining city park, and follow the Sierra Club’s 3 R’s: recycle, reuse, and reduce (consumption). And you? How about Mr. Byron, or is that too “personal”? BTW, your predecessor used to give me updates on how many downloads of “Stress R Us” and the blog piece have occurred in the previous year. Might I ask the same of you? Thank you for your efforts. I know that addressing human overpopulation head-on is not popular, but that never stopped the Ehrlich’s before. Is this your agenda, or has the MAHB focus changed? Stress R Us

          • Arnold Byron

            I agree. Authoritarianism has never worked at any level. I certainly do not want a dictator, a fascist, a plutocrat, a king or any other kind of authoritarian governance in the world, more especially for the globe. Politically I am a Democrat who positions himself as a democratic socialist. Societies, worldwide, should move toward nonprofit cooperatives, nonprofit corporations, strictly regulated for-profit corporations and away from the inundation of private corporations that are stealing the wealth of the rank and file citizenry.

            I do see a need for a global entity to be given the authority to lead humanity in the solving of the global warming and overpopulation crises. The problem is that every time I mention this to friends I am asked why I want a dictator for the planet. It seems that people are too afraid that any global authority can only be autocratic. Perhaps we, especially here in the United States, have been watching too many movies.

            In my writing I have promoted the opposite of autocracy. I call for the administration of a global office to be a committee so that autocratic tendencies can be voted out. I call for the committee to be elected from the science and comparative religion departments of colleges and universities worldwide so that the committee members will not have personal agendas, special agendas, or autocratic tendencies. My vision is that the committee members will have terms of office and new members will be elected from science and comparative religion departments, worldwide. I have chosen candidates from these college and university departments because global warming is essentially a science problem and every nation has strong reliance on religion. If all of the people are to work together to solve these crises then all of the religions must become willing to work together. I felt it important to choose committee members from the comparative religion departments because those people will not be fundamentalist believers. They will be more likely to encourage cooperation among religions.

            All of the above establishes that I am not putting myself up for possible rebuke or ridicule without purpose. The IPCC has given us warning. The world needs to act soon. The only way to begin reducing the population is by going to negative population growth. The rate of population growth might be falling but it is still positive. How long will we have to wait for humanity to voluntarily change its mating mores?

            This is the first time that humanity has become overpopulated. There must never be a second time. There must be a new paradigm instead. In order to return to carrying capacity humanity needs to embrace negative population growth. This can only be done by using contraceptives and the men have to step up to the plate. I am sorry for all the men who do not want to conform to having a vasectomy, but vasectomies will be in the future for every man. It will not be easy for the ladies either, but I believe the ladies will accept their role more easily than the men.

          • Greeley Miklashek

            Thanks for the very thoughtful and complete response, most which I agree with. However, population density stress is killing us NOW, not just in the dystopic future. As a practicing physician for 42 years, I fought this tsunami of growing “diseases of civilization” every day, 24/7. As for your contention that “this is the first time humanity has become overpopulated”, I cannot agree. Currently, we are 3,000 times more populous than were our hunter-gatherer ancestors 12,000 years ago at the inception of the agricultural revolution. That H-G population had been stable for a very long time, as it was fitted to the natural environment on which it depended for sustenance.

            We are not living in a sustainable manner and have not been for centuries. All the paleo-demographers and ecologists I know of, including the Ehrlichs, agree that the largest possible human population the earth can support , if were are living a slimmed down Western lifestyle but are ALL vegans, is 2-2.5B. This happens to be the number we would reach with a worldwide one-child movement (voluntary) by 2,100. My medically based analysis predicts the EXTINCTION OF THE HUMAN SPECIES by as early as 2,100, if we continue on our present course of 220-230,000 new humans daily.

            If we expect current governmental organizations to solve this problem for us, we will live to see our children perish by Malthus’ “misery and vice” more horrible than any dystopian movie could possibly imagine. The difference between your very thoughtful and carefully stated message and my own medical analysis is URGENCY. Humanity needs URGENT CARE just to survive. Please forgive my passionate plea but i have read the medical tea leaves and this is the indelible message: act now or watch you and your offspring perish from population density stress. Stress R Us

    • Hi Arnold,
      Thank you for pointing out that these are responses to overpopulation but not quite solutions. We appreciate you making that important distinction!

      • Arnold Byron

        To MAHB Admin.

        Dr. Miklashek and I seem to be keeping this entry to ourselves. It is interesting that we both want the same end; which is negative population growth, i.e. one child per fily. We both want to maintain negative population growth until the population is reduced to a sustainable size. Dr. Miklashek wants to reach negative population growth by voluntary means: educating women, improving the wealth of poor countries, providing jobs for everyone, especially women. I take a different tack, I believe that the human population will never reach negative population growth unless there is a global office that has the authority, given to it by the nations, to mandate population control.

        These are two very real points of view that need to be debated at the highest levels of politics, religion, science and business. In this thread of comments, Dr. Miklashek and I have both said that time is short.

        Nothing will happen without a debate. Humanity will simply stumble along until it runs out of time. I am hearing and seeing comments about extinction more and more often. I think the possibility of a crushing social-economic collapse that could end in the extinction of the human race is real, especially when the threat of atomic energy disruption is added to the mix.

        The question is: How does one encourage the debate to begin? Voluntary population reduction versus controlled population reduction. The nations have to cast their lots and live or die with the decision they need to make. If the nations do nothing they will lose. The availability of resources the planet has available and how the resources are used will determine if humanity wins or loses.

        The nations need to choose wisely between a voluntary method where the people are expected to do the right thing all of the time, without direction or a global office with the authority to make decisions on how the population will be controlled, with the expectation that the population will willingly strive to comply;

  • Greeley Miklashek

    Fabulous and long overdue! However, where’s the will to dramatically REDUCE THE HUMAN POPULATION through voluntary one-child families, led by free women, with ready access to higher education (not just 7 years currently), with ready access to meaningful work opportunities, and with ready access to safe, effective, inexpensive birth control? Such a worldwide effort can bring our population back down to the 1950 level of 2.5B by 2,100. The alternative is to watch our offspring struggle and die with all of our “diseases of civilization” propagated by “population density stress”, as the environment continues its current collapse, and ending by the same date with the last surviving human birth by 2,100. Remember, 1/3 entering college freshmen in the US today are already on an anti-depressant and 1/4 American women. Why? I treated 25,000 of these suffering souls and finally figured out what was causing their “depressions”, population density stress. We have a choice now, but time is rapidly running out and it’s great to see somebody else sounding an alarm bell. JUST RING IT LOUDER! Stress R Us