Population concern and family size are sensitive and sometimes controversial issues. Population Matters is driven by our vision and values and a desire to create a sustainable future for all: on this page, we’ll try to address concerns people might have about Population Matters, what we believe, what we want and what we do.
Population Matters opposes coercion
While Population Matters expresses concerns regarding human population numbers and lobbies actively to reduce their growth, we are wholly opposed to punitive population control, forced sterilisation or abortions or any other activity which violates human rights. The right to have children, or to have none, is a human right. Population Matters aims to enable women and men to access family planning and have the choice to do that.
Women’s empowerment is central to our goals
Population Matters advocates actively for women’s empowerment. We believe that all women should have the right to determine whether or not they want to have children, along with all other human rights. This includes the right to access and use contraception without discrimination or control. Women and girls deserve equal access to education, full political rights, the ability and freedom to gain employment and to have every right and opportunity men do. We also know that where they have those, fertility almost always falls.
Population Matters promotes reduced consumption as well as population stabilisation
Population Matters aims to achieve a sustainable future in which all humans and wildlife thrive. In order to achieve that, people must take action to address not just total population size but consumption too. While birth rates are comparatively low in most developed nations, each individual consumes at rates which are unsustainably high. For that reason, Population Matters advocates sustainable lifestyles and supports the development and usage of technology in order to reduce waste and improve efficiency. We also, and most importantly, advocate for smaller family sizes, which immediately and effectively reduce consumption by reducing the number of new consumers.
Population concern applies to rich and poor countries alike
Concerns about population do not simply focus on people in poor countries with high population growth while allowing people in rich countries with low population growth off the hook. All countries have a responsibility to bring population to sustainable levels.
Population growth is very low in many developed nations (and in some cases is reversing) but that does not mean that population isn’t a problem. As noted above, people in developed countries have a disproportionate impact on the planet: a person in the UK produces 70 times the CO2 of someone in Niger, for example. That means that fewer people being born in the rich world has the most immediate and positive impact on our environment, climate and sustainability.
People in developing countries do not consume at the same unsustainable levels as the rich at present, and indeed many of their citizens live in dire poverty. They have a right to economic development. In developing countries, population growth is often high, caused by an unmet need for contraception and a lack of women’s empowerment. Large families make it more difficult to escape poverty. Empowering people to control their family sizes and limiting population growth will help to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals and also to ensure that in a world in which fewer people are poor, there are enough resources for all in the future.
Where developing countries do improve their overall economic situations, their citizens will increase their individual consumption and, as a result, their environmental impact over their lifetimes. Smaller families and slower population growth in developing countries where fertility is high today is therefore also vital to prevent environmental damage in the decades ahead.
We see population stabilisation as a necessary condition for a sustainable future in which all of humanity thrives, and one which we must all take responsibility for, wherever we live.
Population Matters believes migration is an issue we must all address
Many conflicts are, at least in part, caused by resource scarcity. Climate change pressures, conflict, and political conditions force many to migrate. Migration can also put a strain on the sustainability of destination countries. There are economic and environmental limits to how many people these countries can accommodate, and it can be argued that migration flows only move or spread the challenges faced, as opposed to solving them. These are complex issues without simple solutions.
Population Matters believes immigration enriches societies and can be good for countries in multiple ways. No government should prevent people from other nations or cultures from joining their community and all countries must meet their responsibilities to accept and support refugees. We vehemently oppose any immigration policy which discriminates on racial, religious or cultural grounds. We also believe, however, that a realistic discussion of population pressures must include recognition of the impact of migration, and must address the management of immigration – including the number of immigrants – as well as the pressures that drive emigration and what can be done to overcome them.