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Population Matters was launched as the Optimum Population Trust in 1991 by the late David Willey and others who were concerned about population numbers and sustainability.

Their goals were to collect, analyse and disseminate information about the sizes of global and national populations and to link this to a study of carrying capacities and inhabitants' quality of life in order to support policy decisions.

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They were impelled to act by the failure of UK governments to respond to a series of recommendations regarding population growth and sustainability.

The organisation prepared analyses and lobbied on issues affected by population growth, including welfare, education, labour supply, population ageing, immigration and the environment. It also lobbied developmental and environmental campaigners on the need to incorporate population issues in their thinking.

The current chair is Roger Martin. Past chairs, in reverse chronological order, were:

  • David Willey
  • Edmund Davey
  • Rosamund McDougall and John Guillebaud (co-Chairs)
  • John Guillebaud
  • Val Stevens
  • Sue Birley
  • Val Stevens

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Prominent past office-holders, some of whom remain actively involved, include: Company Secretary, Membership Secretary and Treasurer, Yvette Willey, the widow of David Willey, the founder; co-Chairs John Guillebaud (later Chair) and Rosamund McDougall; Chair Val Stevens; Campaigns Secretary Edmund Davey; magazine editor Bill Partridge; and David Nicholson-Lord, joint Policy Director with Rosamund McDougall. Andrew Ferguson continues his longstanding role as editor of the Journal. Andrew and Martin Desvaux have been instrumental in developing our ecological population footprinting material.

The organisation was granted charitable status in 2006 and adopted Population Matters as its public name in 2011.

Read about our first chair David Willey.

Read about founding member and benefactor Jack Parsons.

Read about the history of population concern.