Population Matters, for as long as it has existed, has been the subject of criticisms that imply a misunderstanding of our policy positions. The following sets out our views.
Population Matters is not about coercion
While Population Matters expresses concerns regarding human population numbers and lobbies actively to reduce their growth, it does not promote punitive population control. The right to have children, or to refrain from having offspring, is a human right. Population Matters aims to enable women and men to access family planning to enable this right.
Population Matters is not about eugenics
Population Matters advocates for population stabilisation at a sustainable level. It does not aim to affect human genetic traits, or advocate differential fertility rates for different groups or categories of people.
Population Matters is not a white supremacist organisation
Population Matters does not promote the view that white people are superior to others. Instead it sees population stabilisation as a necessary condition for a sustainable future in which all of humanity thrives. It actively supports the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Population Matters is not spreading a misogynist message
Population Matters advocates actively for women’s empowerment. It believes 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 use contraception without fear of societal repercussions. Population Matters condemns forced sterilisation, but believes that sterilisation should be available for women who decide that it is their preferred contraceptive solution. Such a decision is a part of one’s right to self-determination.
Population Matters does not assert that population numbers are all that matters, and does not ignore consumption
Population Matters aims to achieve a sustainable future in which all humans and wildlife thrive. In order to achieve that, it is necessary to consider the impact of both total population size and per capita consumption. While birth rates are comparatively low in most developed nations, per capita consumption rates are unsustainably high. For that reason, Population Matters advocates mindful lifestyles and supports the development and usage of technology in order to reduce waste and improve efficiency.
Developing countries do not consume unsustainably at present, and indeed have many inhabitants living in dire conditions. 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. Consequently, it is necessary to consider population numbers, both to increase the likelihood of implementing the SDGs successfully, and also to ensure that there are enough resources for all in the future.
Population Matters is about action as well as words
Population Matters lobbies actively. It provides evidence to parliamentary inquiries, and conducts research to build its case. Its website and social media are updated regularly. Population Matters also runs PopOffsets, a project that offers anyone the opportunity to offset their environmental impact by donating towards family planning projects. Moreover, the charity has released short films in the past couple of years to appeal to a younger constituency.
Population Matters does not have an unrealistic migration policy
Population Matters believes that many conflicts are, at least in part, caused by resource scarcity. Climate change pressures force many to migrate. While this is understandable, it puts a strain on the sustainability of destination countries. There are limits to how many these countries can accommodate, and it can be argued that migration flows only move or spread the challenges faced, as opposed to solving them.
The idea of no-net migration is not a ban, but an attempt to limit the scale of immigration in relation to the numbers leaving. This means that people fleeing from war-torn areas are not turned away. It also, however, means that Population Matters advocates a greater focus on what causes migration and on what can overcome these pressures.
Population Matters’ patrons are not hypocritical
Some of Population Matters’ patrons have been called hypocritical. Dame Jane Goodall has been criticized for her passion for chimpanzees, because “humans are more important than wildlife”. While we agree that it is important that all humans enjoy good-quality lives, we do not share the anthropocentric belief that only mankind matters. Population Matters seeks a future in which both humans and wildlife thrive in a healthy environment.
Again, Sir David Attenborough has been accused of hypocrisy because he flies so much and eats meat. It is easy to point out perceived flaws in the lives of others, but we hold that it is important to consider equally their valuable contributions. Sir David Attenborough has generated a lot of attention for conservation, and inspired many to live more mindful lives, and this has required extensive travel.
Pop Offsets is not a paternalistic initiative
Pop Offsets, a project that offers the opportunity to offset environmental impact by donating towards family planning projects, is seen as controversial because it allows rich emitters to offset their impact by preventing the birth of a poor child that would likely not emit much carbon. When phrased like that, the initiative indeed seems questionable. However, Population Matters considers the following:
- The choice to use contraception is never forced on anyone; it is merely provided to those who express a desire to use it. Many women worldwide lack access to contraception. Any donation towards bettering this situation is positive.
- Many people are idealistic, but Population Matters focuses on reality. The difference can be explained as follows: the idealist adopts a value — for example, justice — and considers it as altogether independent from real life constraints. The realist believes that all values face constraints. This means, for instance, that a value is tied to those we have already adopted in our societies, and that we build from what we have. While we may wish that no one emits, this is not currently realistic. It is preferable to compensate one way or another, than to do nothing.