Population and the environment

Our numbers have a huge effect on our natural environment. The more of us there are, the bigger the impact on nature. Human population growth is a key driver of biodiversity loss, resource depletion, deforestation, climate emissions and pollution.

In the 1970s, Population Matters Patron Paul Ehrlich and his colleague John Holdren developed an equation to describe our impact on the environment:

I = P x A x T

Where "I" is impact, "P" is population, "A" is affluence and "T" is technology. The "IPAT" equation shows that our numbers, how we live, and the technology we use all have an effect on our finite environment.

See our latest news stories and blog posts about the environment below.

19 September 2020 to 26 September 2020

UN Global Week to #Act4SDGs

The 2020 Global Week to Act4SDGs, on September 18-26, is a joint call to action for everyone - leaders, citizens, organisations and institutions - to accelerate progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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Densely packed buildings
28 August 2020

It's time to end harmful population denial

Population Matters Director Robin Maynard debunks writer George Monbiot's claims that addressing the population issue is "blaming the poor" and "racist", and explains why population denial hurts everyone, especially the world's most vulnerable.

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Small family in woods
22 August 2020

Earth Overshoot Day: How smaller families shrink our ecological footprint

Today is Earth Overshoot Day, the day on which humanity has used up all the natural resources that the Earth can produce within a year. This means that from tomorrow, we are effectively in ecological overshoot, leading to resource depletion and destruction of nature. Population Matters Senior Communications Officer Olivia Nater explains how empowering people to choose a small family size helps us live within our planetary boundaries.

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20 August 2020

Earth Overshoot Day: Five ways we can move the date

Every year, Earth Overshoot Day marks the day when humanity has consumed all the resources that the planet can produce over the entire year. This year it falls on 22 August. Global Footprint Network CEO Laurel Hanscom lays out five steps we must take to shrink humanity's ecological footprint.

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Senegalese woman learning about modern contraceptives
10 August 2020

Investing in contraception would save billions of dollars

A new report estimates that fulfilling the unmet need for modern contraception in developing countries would save $16 billion a year in maternal healthcare by reducing the number of unintended pregnancies.

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London street crowd
6 August 2020

Small island, big population – why the UK needs a Sustainable Population Policy

With the United Kingdom already considered one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, unabated population growth poses a real threat to remaining ecosystems and human health and wellbeing. Population Matters Director Robin Maynard takes a look at a UK politician’s new proposal to set up a governmental body tasked with monitoring national population trends and developing policy recommendations. 

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12 August 2020

Championing better choices: My work as a young population activist

The theme of this year's International Youth Day is "Youth Engagement for Global Action". Stella Wright, a member of the Population Matters London Local Group, is one of an increasing number of young people around the world concerned about the impact of global population growth. Here, she explains what motivated her to become an environmental activist. 

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Person eating burger
27 July 2020

Eating the planet: what our diets and population growth mean for the environment

A new report reveals that global adoption of current food consumption patterns in G20 countries would ruin our chance of meeting climate and sustainability targets, exceeding our food carbon budget by almost three-fold and requiring up to seven Earths to support.

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Crowd crossing road
20 July 2020

Two billion fewer people?

A new study published in The Lancet projects that the global population will peak at 9.7bn in 2064 and be 8.8bn by the end of the century. That's 2bn below the United Nations projection. Can it be true?

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14 July 2020

World Population Day 2020 – sustainable development needs a sustainable population

Saturday 11 July marked World Population Day and for us it was the culmination of a series of digital events that we hope will encourage and inspire people to talk about population issues. This year our theme and activities centred around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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