Activist Guide

An Activist Guide to Talking to People about Human Population and the Environment


Thank you for supporting and representing Population Matters. As you’ll find, members of the public are normally very supportive of what we do once they understand the issues and the facts. Many are increasingly willing to listen to us, while some already share our concerns. Your knowledge and ability to talk to people will develop, and we are here to support you. We hope these tips will help to give you confidence.

Part 1: We want to spread a positive message 

We can make people’s lives better and protect the environment by having a population that the Earth can comfortably support through;

  • empowering women

  • providing everyone with a good education

  • ensuring everyone can freely use modern family planning

  • encouraging smaller families

  • ending poverty

Part 2: What challenges do we face?

Let the people you engage (be conversational) with, understand why they should care but FIRST, amicably find out if they know what’s going on.  

  • Grave problems such as climate change, rapidly disappearing biodiversity (the “Sixth Mass Extinction”), and pollution are all driven by and made worse by an expanding population.

  • We are using up the Earth’s finite resources ever more rapidly and are demanding

renewable resources like productive soil, forests, and clean air faster than it can sustain. Simply providing everyone’s nutritional needs will be extremely difficult to achieve within just a few decades unless we get population under control.

  • High population growth makes families, communities, and nations poorer.  Growth rates higher than 2% have huge consequences for any population in a short period of time as populations tend to double much faster in shorter times.

Consumption Vs Population!

  • Our consumption is costing the Earth, and those of us who are consuming the most are causing the most harm. Having fewer consumers being born is one of the most effective ways of making our consumption sustainable (although not the only one!). 

  • We always need to make clear that our concern is not just about human numbers and the poorer countries where population growth is very high but relates to the impact that people have on the planet too. 

I=PAT  Equation

While it is clear that we need to change our consumption habits, adding more consumers only exacerbates every problem arising from it, so we must address both.

Environmental problems facing humanity can best be understood through the I=PAT equation. Population size (P), level of affluence (A) as measured by per-capita consumption, and ‘technology’ (T) are the primary forces behind environmental impacts (I).


Ageing populations pose an opportunity, not a problem. We need to grasp the opportunities presented by an ageing population, including less unemployment, a stimulus to greater productivity - especially exploiting new technology - and the availability of fit, talented retired people to contribute to our communities



UN half a child less 

This graph demonstrates that overpopulation is fixable with smaller families


Part 3: Unique Selling Point/Advantage

Our case has been put best by Population Matters’ patron, Sir David Attenborough:


“All environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”


It’s almost always very effective to say that to people – it’s very hard to argue with! 


Part 4: Helpful Resources to keep you informed

Website - feel free to refer them to your audience

Know some facts

For the tough questions, you need to respect different views and practice answers to the most common ones. Keep calm no matter any provocation.

A good read which drives the main solution home


Whenever possible, have some leaflets or flyers to hand out. Make sure you can explain the information on the leaflets. You can order them for free from our shop


Simple graphs you can use

Human population & livestock vs wildlife

Some graphs have been used already - see Part 2 and solutions. Feel free to download more at


Part 5: The Donts!
  1. Do not tell people not to have children. Do not come across as dictatorial. We believe in the power of choice, every choice counts, we give people facts and they get to choose their family size

  2. Avoid the word coercion when talking about family planning. Instead, of saying, “we do not coerce women into using contraceptives”, say, “we encourage the use of voluntary and ethical means...” 

  3. Avoid risky statements that can be misinterpreted.

Part 6: Finally!

Campaigning is hard work but it is worth it.


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