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.

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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Energy

Sustainability Insights

Availability of clean renewable energy is a critical issue affecting the future of humanity. It is one of the most significant constraints both on the lifestyles and on the number of people that will be sustainable in generations to come.

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Food

Sustainability Insights

Recent UN statistics confirm that the number of undernourished people in the world has been decreasing, but not fast enough to achieve the UN’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG 1c) target to halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger between 1990 and 2015.1

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Ecosystems and biodiversity

Sustainability Insights

Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of life on earth. It can be assessed at genetic, species and ecosystem levels.1, 2, 3

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Current population trends

Sustainability Insights

The future population growth of the world is difficult to predict accurately. A range of projections has been published by organizations such as the United Nations and the US Census Bureau, depending on different assumptions of birth rates and other factors affecting numbers.

 

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Contraception and lack of reproductive health

Sustainability Insights

Global perspective

Worldwide, 225 million women have an ‘unmet need’ for modern contraception. Having an unmet need is defined as wanting to stop or delay childbearing but not using any method of contraception1. 

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Climate change

Sustainability Insights

Only recently has it been possible directly to measure temperature, rainfall and the other weather variables that make up our climate. H

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Carrying capacity

Sustainability Insights

The maximum number of individuals that can be supported sustainably by a given environment is known as its ‘carrying capacity’.

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Biocapacity and ecological footprint

Sustainability Insights

These two concepts were developed by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) and are quantified as global hectares (gha). They provide a common basis on which to compare the biological capability of the environment to provide food and meet other essential needs, versus the demands placed by human communities on these ecological services.

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Ageing Populations

Sustainability Insights

 

Responding to ageing populations Populations around the world are ageing as life expectancy increases and as birth rates fall. At present, the increased proportion of elderly people in the population is generally higher in developed countries than in others, but ageing is increasingly becoming a global phenomenon.

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