Population 8 Billion is a limited series podcast to help you better understand what a world of 8 billion people means for the planet, the environment, and the future of our diverse societies. The series interviews scientists and activists as it delves into why global population growth deserves your attention and what inputs drive population growth and declines. It also explores how to make our current population more sustainable, why it is important for women to take a lead role in these conversations, and why the rights of other species and nature should be protected. The podcast is hosted by Population Media Center and produced by Czech environmental journalist Veronika Perková. There are six episodes, which are posted below as they are completed.
Episode 1. The Dilemma of Sustainability
To satisfy the needs and desires of 8 billion people, we currently need 1.8 planet Earths. But because there is just one planet, we are overshooting its capacity by using more resources than Earth can regenerate and dumping more waste than it can assimilate. And because this has been going on for quite a few decades now, we also have to deal with the consequences – climate change, resource depletion, soil degradation, pollution, the sixth mass extinction, and ocean acidification. Even though the economists and politicians try to convince us that things are going to be fine, that we can grow forever and technology will overcome any barriers in a place with finite resources, this is a lie. And if we want to make living on Earth sustainable not just for our generation but for the posterity, we must talk about real solutions.
In this revealing interview, we talk to two veteran environmentalists, William Rees and Richard Heinberg about:
- What is Earth Overshoot and why we need to address overconsumption and population growth
- Why turning a blind eye on Earth Overshoot will make things worse
- How we’re currently living through the most abnormal era in human history
- Why perpetual economic growth is a myth and why we need to get rid of it
- Why we need a smaller economy and a massive shift in lifestyles
- Why renewable energy is not as sustainable as we think and why it is not a solution to our current ecological crisis
- How we can transform society by reorienting its values from economic growth to human well-being
- Why we need a voluntary humane global population program
- Why changing the global mindset about Earth Overshoot and getting involved politically is essential
Dr. William Rees is an ecologist, ecological economist, former Director and Professor Emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning in Vancouver. He has authored hundreds of academic papers and popular articles on humanity’s (un)sustainability crisis. Bill is best known for originating and co-developing ecological footprint analysis (EFA) with Mathis Wackernagel and other graduate students. EFA is now widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, and institutions to monitor human demands on ecosystems and document population overshoot.
Richard Heinberg is Senior Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, and is regarded as one of the world’s foremost advocates for a shift away from our current reliance on fossil fuels. He is the author of fourteen books and hundreds of articles on society’s current energy and environmental sustainability crisis. His latest book is Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival. He has also delivered hundreds of lectures on energy and climate issues on six continents.
Episode 2. Pronatalism: Outdated, Unfair, and Unsustainable in a World of 8 Billion
“Your biological clock is ticking! Women have always had babies, what’s wrong with you? Without a son, you are nothing. Why stop after the first child, have another one!” If any of this sounds familiar to you, it’s no surprise. The pressure to have children – sometimes many of them – is everywhere you look. Well-meant advice from parents, the glorification of parenthood in the media, government incentives to alleviate aging populations, and religious encouragement to bring back good old family values, you name it. But what seems at first glance a mosaic of haphazard messages is, in fact, a part of an oppressive social norm called pronatalism.
In this interview with Nandita Bajaj, Executive Director of Population Balance, we uncover:
- What pronatalism is and how it manifests in our every day’s lives
- What subtle and overt methods are used to manipulate people to have more children
- Who pushes these beliefs and who benefits from pronatalism
- Who is harmed by pronatalist pressures
- Where pronatalism is present (spoiler alert: everywhere!)
- Why pronatalism is the longest and most pervasive form of population control
- How people can challenge pronatalism and make more autonomous decisions
Nandita Bajaj is the Executive Director of Population Balance, where she also co-hosts The Overpopulation Podcast. Population Balance offers education and solutions to address the intersectional impacts of human overpopulation and overconsumption on the planet, people, and animals. As faculty with the Institute for Humane Education at Antioch University, Nandita teaches and researches pronatalism, anthropocentrism, human rights, environmental ethics, and overpopulation and their impacts on reproductive, ecological, and intergenerational justice. She also serves as the Advisory Board Chair for Stable Planet Alliance. Bajaj has Bachelor’s degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Education, a Master’s degree in Humane Education, and over 15 years of experience working in engineering, education, and non-profit management.
Episode 3. What Stands Behind the Success of Family Planning? Community and Couples Dialogue
In a world where nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended and more than 218 million women have an unmet need for birth control, it can be hard to feel hopeful. That said, there are plenty of ground-breaking examples of progress, from Guatemala to Kenya and the Philippines, in decreasing the unmet need for family planning, advancing gender equity and lowering birth rates.
In this interview about family planning, Wame Jallow and Kathleen Mogelgaard, touch on:
- How to dismantle patriarchal opposition to contraception through couples counseling and education
- How to bridge community dialogue between providers and recipients of care, religious leaders, traditional leaders and policy-makers
- How comprehensive sexuality education for children and adults helps dispel myths and misinformation about contraception
- Why offering a wide variety of contraceptive methods to everyone everywhere helps tackle side effects and lead to long-term use of family planning
- Ground-breaking examples of family planning in Botswana, Burundi, Kenya, Guatemala, and the Philippines
- What needs to be done so that women worldwide have universal access to sexual and reproductive health services
Wame Jallow is Vice President of International Programs at Population Media Center. She has over 20 years’ experience in global health-related programming in the areas of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, Hepatitis C, sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health. Jallow is based in Botswana, from where she manages programs at the global, regional, and country levels, working within the civil society, public, and donor sectors.
Kathleen Mogelgaard is President and CEO of the Population Institute, a nonprofit that promotes universal access to family planning information, education, and services. She has been involved in sustainability research and advocacy with the Population Reference Bureau, PAI, Oxfam, World Resources Institute, and UN Population Fund.
Episode 4. Women Leaders Working on Ending Population Growth
Most people still associate the word “population” with population control programs of the past and refrain from talking about this issue altogether. But in a world of 8 billion, where more than 218 million women still lack access to the most important decision in their lives – whether and when to have children – talking about family planning and a sustainable population is becoming ever more important. And it’s time for women’s voices to not only be included in that conversation, but to also lead.
In this enlightening interview, three professional population activists — Phoebe Barnard, Florence Blondel and Stephanie Feldstein — share their thoughts on:
- Why talking about population is the right thing to do
- How to open up the conversation about the intersection of population, consumption, climate change and biodiversity loss
- What the situation of Ugandan women in rural areas looks like and why they want change (more gender equality and reproductive rights)
- The role women should play in the discussion about a sustainable population
- Why raising up the voices of men is exceptionally important too
- How Stable Planet Alliance, Population Matters and Center for Biological Diversity work to shift the dialogue and public policy about sustainable population
- The hopes of these three activists for the future of our planet
Phoebe Barnard is a conservation biologist and global change ecologist who worked for 34 years in South Africa and Namibia on climate change, biodiversity, human ecology and behavior change. She is the cofounder and CEO of Stable Planet Alliance, a global coalition of respected organizations working to bend the curve on human population and resource consumption. She founded Girl Planet Earth, a global platform for women and girls to talk about population, hyperconsumption and planetary health.
Florence Blondel is a social change and environmental campaigner originating from Uganda. Florence started her career as a news reporter for Ugandan NTV where she covered sexual and reproductive health issues. After getting a degree in Population and Development from London School of Economics and Political Science she transitioned to the marketing world and since 2018, she has been working for nonprofit Population Matters, currently as Communications Officer.
Stephanie Feldstein is the Population and Sustainability Director at the Center for Biological Diversity where she heads a national program that addresses unsustainable human population, overconsumption and the extinction of plants and animals around the world. Prior to this, Stephanie worked for Change.org, where she helped hundreds of people implement online campaigns to protect wildlife.
episode 5. Rights of Nature: A Millenia-Old Concept Revolutionizing Our Relationship with Nature
Many Indigenous and coastal communities have respected and protected Nature for millennia, because they understood that Nature’s wellbeing also means their own. Our modern industrial societies, however, have lost this tie and become so disconnected from Nature that we have come to see it as an array of quarries, mines and fields to support our insatiable appetites. By legally recognizing Nature’s inherent right to exist and thrive and giving her a voice, the Rights of Nature movement tries to transform our relationship with Earth and help protect our imperiled ecosystems, with some proven successes already (over 150 laws worldwide so far, ranging from Ecuador, New Zealand, India and Mexico.)
In this interview with Rachel Bustamante and Diwigwi Valiente, we uncover:
- How the Rights of Nature movement is transforming our approach to nature
- How the Guna indigenous community in Panama perceives Nature
- Why recognizing Rights of Nature benefits both Nature and humans
- What role Indigenous communities play in safeguarding biodiversity
- How Rights of Nature are recognized and implemented worldwide
Rachel Bustamante is Conservation Science & Policy Analyst at Earth Law Center, which is building a force of advocates for Nature’s rights at local and international levels. They partner with local organizations to create new laws that recognize Rights of Nature to exist, thrive and evolve, including specific ecosystems, like rivers or the ocean. Rachel’s research and advocacy focuses on the intersections of biodiversity conservation, ocean policy and global environmental governance and justice.
Diwigdi Valiente is an Indigenous climate activist from the Guna people in Panama, social entrepreneur and the Director of Tourism Planning and Development at the Panamanian Ministry of Tourism. He specializes in the blue economy, regenerative tourism and the rights of indigenous people. In 2020, he was selected as one of the 10 young leaders of the future in Panama.
episode 6. Overconsumption: Why Living on Less Is So Hard
For 8 billion people to live in a way that is truly sustainable, everyone would have to take up residence in a one-room apartment with minimal electricity, no central air, heat or hot water, no washing machine, dryer or dishwasher, and have only a few sets of clothes and pairs of shoes. You’d also have to be a vegetarian who never drives or flies in an airplane. Sound utterly dystopian? “Maybe, but that is what it would take for all of us to live equitably,” says Terry Spahr, the founder of Earth Overshoot and filmmaker behind 8 Billion Angels.
In this eye-opening interview with Spahr, we discuss the challenges of reducing consumption and offer ideas for solving our ecological crisis. We touch on:
- What sustainability really means
- Which countries are sustainable
- How a sustainable lifestyle would look for 8 billion people
- Why it’s almost impossible to reduce your overall consumption even if you put in a lot of effort
- Why it’s complicated to shift the way entire governments and the global economy functions to reduce overconsumption
- How shortening the work week would help people and planet’s well-being
- Why promoting smaller families is the most powerful and systemic strategy
Terry Spahr is a filmmaker, environmental activist, and the Executive Director of Earth Overshoot, a nonprofit that raises awareness about unsustainable population growth and consumption. In 2019, he produced 8 Billion Angels, a documentary film that exposes overpopulation as the upstream cause of all our environmental problems.
Episode 7. Celebrities, Priests and Friends: Changing Ingrained Social Norms Is Possible with the Right Messenger
Even though scientists, doctors and experts constantly bombard us with well-meant advice about how we should live healthily and sustainably, this has surprisingly very little effect on our behavior. Until we see our friends, coworkers, or people we admire adopt new behaviors – being childfree, going vegan, or giving up a car – we will be reluctant to do any of these things for the fear that it would be socially unacceptable or just too difficult. Whether these role models are religious authorities who make it okay to use contraception, famous bodybuilders who are also vegan, or soap opera characters who support girls’ education, they wield power over their audience and can make healthier and more sustainable social norms more acceptable.
To learn why, we interviewed William Ryerson, the Founder and President of Population Media Center, and touched on these topics:
- Why making people into experts on sustainability or climate change through informational campaigns has little impact on changing their behavior
- Why real and fictional charismatic leaders can bring about change in communities and make it socially acceptable to adopt new norms
- How social norms work and how their perception influences our behaviors
- How serialized dramas can be used to change social norms on a large scale
- Why certain norms take longer to change than others and what needs to happen so they change permanently
William Ryerson is the Founder and President of Population Media Center. He has more than 50 years of experience working in the field of reproductive health, including three decades of experience with social and behavior change communications.