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.
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Note: Documents published by Population Matters in the past may not reflect current policies or positions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Biodiversity is a measure of the variety of life on earth. It can be assessed at genetic, species and ecosystem levels.1, 2, 3
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.
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.
The maximum number of individuals that can be supported sustainably by a given environment is known as its ‘carrying capacity’.
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.
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.
Contact: Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns & Communications: 020 8123 9170; firstname.lastname@example.org
Four-page A5 leaflet setting out the case for population concern. Includes a membership application form.