COVID-19: PMC provides a trusted voice for high-risk global audiences. Learn More

(Wrong) Opinion: Population is not the problem

January 27, 2014 • Daily Email Recap

Population is not the problem
Population growth is often nominated as the mother of all environmental problems. But it’s not so simple.

“POPULATION GROWTH is the most important issue we face. If you can’t get your head around that your words are empty and meaningless!”

Surely I am not the only one who has been harangued by these words. They usually come at the end of a public lecture from an older wealthy white man who has been waiting with increasing agitation for his opportunity to talk. It is usually also followed by some call to implement punitive measures for “the breeders”.

I really hate this argument…and not just because I have two children of my own.

I hate it because it obscures the complexity of human impact on the environment. One simple framework for understanding this impact is the IPAT formula, which holds that ecological impact (I) is a function of population (P), affluence (or consumption levels) (A), and technology (T).

According to this equation, reducing population is an important part of reducing our environmental impact. However, population is not the only, nor necessarily the most important, factor. Rather, it is absolutely necessary that people in affluent societies learn how to consume not just differently and more efficiently, but less (A). This is supported by the ACF Consuming Australia Report (pdf) which found that: “Most of our impact on the environment actually comes from the pollution created and the water and land used in the production and distribution of the goods and services we purchase.”

To read the full article, please click here:

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit