Population Matters resource library

Population Matters has been conducting research and producing briefings and government submissions for more than 20 years. You can use this page to find resources on a wide variety of population and environmental subjects. Use the search filters below to refine your search, or browse more than 100 papers and documents. You can also find past editions of the Population Matters members' magazine

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Note: Documents published by Population Matters in the past may not reflect current policies or positions.

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Journal of Population and Sustainability

As part of our commitment to research in the field, Population Matters also publishes the editorially independent Journal of Population and Sustainability, exploring all aspects of the relationship between human numbers and environmental issues.

Journal of Population and Sustainability

Climate Change and Population – Links and Trade-Offs

Briefings and submissions

 “The strong correspondence among emission, population, and GDP rankings reflects the importance of population and economic growth as emissions drivers.” (Climate data: insights and observations, Baumer & Pershing, Pew Center on Climate Change, December 2004.)

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A Population-Based Climate Strategy

Briefings and submissions

In 2007 the world finally woke up to climate change. It has not, however, woken up to one of its fundamental causes – human population growth.

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Population and climate change

Briefings and submissions

Introduction Climate change is the long-term alteration of weather patterns affecting our planet. In the modern world this occurs largely due to human produced greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere and alter the earth’s climate.

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Population Dynamics in Mitigating Climate Change

Briefings and submissions

Human population both affects and is affected by climate change. Changes in population size have implications for the ability of societies to adapt to the effects of climate change and for the patterns of consumption and production that generate the emissions driving climate change.

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Managing an ageing society

Briefings and submissions

Societies age when the age distribution of their population shifts towards an older age. This is a consequence of increasing longevity and falling birth rates.1

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Women’s rights

Sustainability Insights

In recent years, governments across the world have been accepting more legal human rights obligations to combat gender inequalities. Despite this, discrimination against women is still widespread, and the severest of human rights violations are persisting in many countries.

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What the things we use are made of

Sustainability Insights

The list below shows a range of goods, services and infrastructure that play a significant part in 21st century human activity, particularly in prosperous, economically-developed countries.

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Sustainable technology: cornflake example

Sustainability Insights

In many cases, it is not obvious to the consumer what resources go into making a particular product.

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Sustainable technology

Sustainability Insights

Technology allows us to convert natural resources into the goods and services that we eat, drink, wear, live in, travel on, etc. It can make both positive and negative contributions to sustainability.

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Sustainable consumption (affluence)

Sustainability Insights

It is completely unsustainable for the whole world population to enjoy the high-consumption lifestyles that industrialized countries such as the UK benefit from at present. 

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Sustainability and the Ehrlich equation

Sustainability Insights

A sustainable activity is one that is capable of going on for an indefinite period of time. Unfortunately, the term sustainable has been widely abused, as illustrated by the commonly-used contradiction sustainable growth: growth can never be truly sustainable in a finite world.

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Space and amenities

Sustainability Insights

There are more people in the world than ever before, and we are living closer together, with over half the world’s population now in towns and cities.

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Rights and responsibilities

Sustainability Insights

We at Population Matters believe in respect for human rights, both for their own sake and as a prerequisite for long-term sustainability.

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Poverty

Sustainability Insights

Data from 2015 showed that, although extreme poverty had declined significantly over the past two decades, 14 per cent of the population of the developing world was still subsisting on less than $1.25 per day, defined by the UN as an international indicator of poverty. 

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Personal contribution to sustainability

Sustainability Insights

The greatest long-term personal contribution that most people can make to sustainability is to refrain from having an unsustainable number of children — as explained in our smaller families webpage.

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Sustainable economics

Sustainability Insights

Introduction

It is clear that the present rate of consumption of natural resources is unsustainable.

Even so-called ‘renewable resources’ are only renewable at the rate at which they are naturally replenished and there is an overwhelming amount of scientific data to show that the present level of human activity is having a massively deleterious effect on the environment. In particular, greenhouse gas emissions will lead to potentially catastrophic levels of climate change unless urgent action is taken.

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Minerals

Sustainability Insights

Minerals are naturally-occurring substances formed by geological processes. A large proportion of construction materials, and the raw materials for a substantial number of industrial goods, are of geological origin. Minerals in the soil are also essential for the production of food. Gems, such as diamonds, and precious metals, such as gold, are materials of geological origin that are also highly prized as currency media and indicators of status.

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Migration

Sustainability Insights

Background We live in an Age of Migration, with 244 million people, or 3.3 per cent of the world’s population, living outside their country of birth in 2015. 1 Migration, as such, is not new. Studies by paleoanthropologists suggest that, since the earliest times for which we have evidence, our human ancestors and other hominids have migrated. More recently, many significant migrations have been recorded — for example, between 1836 and 1914 more than 30 million.

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Materials

Sustainability Insights

Raw materials To achieve even a basic standard of living, people need access to a certain amount of various raw materials — as a minimum, sufficient to make tools and clothing, provide shelter and grow food. In industrialized economies, the range and quantity of materials exploited are extensive, and in most cases large amounts of energy are also used in extraction and production processes.

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Human population history

Sustainability Insights

World population Genetic information suggests that around 70,000 years ago there was a dramatic collapse in the world human population, and it fell to very low numbers.1 Subsequently, numbers recovered and the development of agriculture and settled communities enabled populations to grow.

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