Scientists Worldwide to Speak Out on Population Problem

January 9, 2009 • Daily Email Recap

December 10, 2008

John Feeney
+1 303-447-0973

Scientists Worldwide to Speak Out on Population Problem

The Global Population Speak Out aims to break down the barrier to public discussion of the population-environment link.

Boulder, CO – Scientists from around the world have pledged to speak out publicly in February, 2009 on the problem of the size and growth of the human population. Speaking out as well will be environmental and science writers, social activists, and representatives of environmental groups. The event, called the Global Population Speak Out (GPSO), aims to weaken a decades-long taboo against open discussion of population issues.

So far, GPSO has received pledges from scientists and others in 17 countries, all agreeing to speak out during February. Many will do so through the print media. Others are planning interviews, talks, and conferences.

Endorsers of the project include, Stanford University scientists Paul and Anne Ehrlich, Cornell University ecologist David Pimentel, and co-author of The Limits to Growth Dennis Meadows.

Those pledging to speak out include botanist and past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Peter Raven, Duke University ecologist Stuart Pimm, University of Delhi professor of community medicine Jugal Kishore, University of Tehran environmental scientist M. F. Makhdoum, and social activists Jerry Mander and Harvey Wasserman.

One of the project’s endorsers, Ohio State University anthropologist Jeffrey McKee, said, “If you look at the key issues and goals of our time — economic prosperity, clean water, sustainable energy, and biodiversity survival — they all have a common denominator. They all point to the need immediately and responsibly to stem the growth of the human population, and to return our population size to sustainable limits.”

But, said environmental writer and GPSO organizer John Feeney, “Despite its central role in nearly every environmental problem, many have for years viewed the population topic as politically unpopular. In fact, despite the urgent need for solutions, it’s become taboo to state publicly that population growth must be humanely stabilized and reversed.”

He added, “Environmental groups have been reluctant to talk about it because they know it will trigger criticism and may compromise funding. Scientists have hesitated too, knowing any mention of population is sure to stir controversy.”

GPSO is designed to make it easier for participants to raise the issue by bringing together a collection of voices so participants know they are not alone in speaking out.

The project grew out of a simple idea, said Feeney. “We wondered, what if a large number of qualified voices worldwide, many of whom might not have emphasized the topic previously, were to speak out on population all at once? With any luck it will nudge the subject closer to the center of public discourse.”

Another goal of the event, said Feeney, is to bring new voices to the population issue. “This is a matter of profound importance. There are experts, such as the Ehrlichs, who address it regularly. But we need many more voices. We hope GPSO might help bring a few to the world’s attention. Our hope is that after February it will be a little easier to talk about population and there will be more people doing just that.”



John Feeney
+1 303-447-0973

For more information visit the GPSO website at

To participate, see and read the text below.
Want to participate in GPSO? There are many excellent candidates for involvement whom we’ll be unable to contact. If you do not receive an invitation but would like to participate we’d love to have you on board!
If you fit into one of the categories we’ve used for official invitees, just email us with the phrase “I pledge,” and send us your name, title, and other particulars. (If you don’t fit any of the categories, see below.) Any link or other resource we can use to verify your information would be helpful as well. (To understand the project, you’ll want to be sure to read the GPSO letter as well.) We’ll include your name on our list of pledges. Those categories are:
• Active or retired scientist, not necessarily affiliated with a college or university
• Active or retired college or university professor/instructor in the natural or social sciences or other relevant discipline (Our mailing focuses mostly on those involved in topic areas especially relevant to the population issue, such as environmental science, biology, and anthropology, but those from other disciplines are welcome.)
• Environmental or science writer, journalist, editor, or activist
• Political or social policy writer or activist
• Executive, staff member, board member, or adviser to an organization with an environmental or social policy emphasis
• Politician/government official
• Public figure of particular prominence or influence
If you do not identify yourself by any of those categories, you can still participate. We appreciate all efforts to speak out on population during February! On the page of pledgers you will now find a separate list for “Other concerned citizens who have pledged.” It is its own category and the efforts of those on the list will be documented in the same way as those on the original list of pledges. So go here and tell us “I pledge”!

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