“All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder — and ultimately impossible — to solve with ever more people.”
– Sir David Attenborough, Population Matters patron
Human population has grown beyond Earth's sustainable means. We are consuming more resources than our planet can regenerate, with devastating consequences.
It took humanity 200,000 years to reach one billion and only 200 years to reach seven billion. We are still adding an extra 80 million each year and are headed towards 10 billion by mid-century.
More people inevitably put more demands on the planet. More people require more food, water, sanitation, homes, public services, and amenities – but our Earth is struggling to cope. Populations of wild species have plummeted, global temperatures are rising, our seas are full of plastic and forests are disappearing.
Humans are directly responsible for the sixth mass extinction and the climate crisis, the most serious environmental threats our planet has ever faced.
In the rich world, we consume at astronomical and unsustainable levels. That cannot continue, and we must change our behaviour. Today, a child born in the US will produce 24 times more consumption carbon emissions per year than one born in Nigeria.
Addressing how people consume is not enough, however. We are already using the resources of more than one-and-a-half planets. Everyone has the right to a good quality of life and with increasing global affluence, the collective impact of billions more of us will increase even further. This is why we cannot ignore population.
The UN's projections show that very small changes in the size of families across the globe make an enormous difference - between a population of 7 billion and an unthinkable 16 billion by the end of the century.
We can achieve a sustainable global population when communities, governments and organisations take action to enable people to choose smaller families through women's empowerment and easy access to high quality education and family planning. By doing so, we can ensure that, in the future, everyone can have a decent standard of living on a healthy planet.
Population Matters is putting population on the global agenda, bringing the issue to an international audience through our campaigning, education and research.
Sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with our work.