Population Matters

New clothing range

New clothing range

New Population Matters organic clothing rangeWe are incredibly excited to announce the launch of our new clothing range and online store, powered by Teemill. We offer a wide variety of great printed t-shirts, sweats and accessories.

All of our items are ethically made from certified 100 per cent organic cotton — more comfortable and better for the environment than non-organic cotton. They are made sustainably in a wind-powered factory, further minimising environmental impact.

We offer next day UK delivery with free delivery on orders over £50.

You can see the new range at populationmatters.teemill.co.uk.

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Population growth drives migration

Sometimes a person has no choice but to leave home and seek a more bearable life elsewhereMigration is a global phenomenon of increasing scale and concern, and is addressed in our latest briefing.

The ongoing “migration crisis” in the European Union and the United Kingdom has affected every corner of society, raising a number of uncomfortable issues.

Migration is defined as the movement of people that involves change of residence from one place to another and impacts the structure, composition and growth of a country. About one in seven people worldwide are identified as international or internal migrants, a record level.

People leave their home for diverse reasons, and sometimes have little choice — for example, as a consequence of disease, conflict or natural disasters. These are, in turn, a result of pressure on the environment from high human population growth or density, and from overconsumption of natural resources, leading to poverty and low living standards.

To alleviate poverty and improve people’s living standards, which will in turn reduce migratory pressure, Population Matters promotes moderating population growth.

Population Matters believes that improving living standards through limiting population growth will enhance opportunities for every individual.

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Universal basic income could improve sustainability

UBI could be significantly more sustainable than current welfare systems (Photo credit: Bank of England)Universal basic income (UBI) means replacing means-tested benefits with an unconditional regular payment that everyone, rich or poor, receives. While there are risks, UBI has the potential to be significantly more sustainable than current welfare systems, largely due to its ability to combat poverty.

This is the conclusion of our new briefing paper, which looks at the sustainability of implementing UBI in the UK.

While there are obvious important moral reasons to address poverty, poverty is also a significant problem from a sustainability perspective. There are three reasons for this: the first is that poverty tends to cause increased population growth. The second is that even though those in poverty consume less, a great deal of resources are often required to cover the costs of poverty; child poverty in the UK, for instance, is estimated to have cost the government £29 billion. The third reason is that poverty motivates governments to pursue an unsustainable perpetual economic growth as a tool to fight poverty, resulting in long-term environmental degradation.

The main strength of UBI is its ability to combat poverty more effectively than conditional welfare. For instance, conditional welfare perversely incentivises some on welfare to not seek work, because working more would mean benefit withdrawal. UBI, by contrast, allows workers to keep all of their basic income no matter what they earn.

UBI can combat poverty more effectively than conditional welfareFurthermore, UBI would significantly increase the bargaining position of low-paid workers: instead of being forced to take the first job they can find, they could look around for better-paid work.

In one of the few basic income pilots that has been performed, in Manitoba, Canada, it has indeed been found that UBI appeared to have a significant effect in reducing poverty.

Some worry that UBI will be prohibitively expensive to implement on the required scale. While this is a concern, the RSA has published a basic income plan for the UK that would have a net cost of only one per cent of GDP — a cost which is not at all unprecedented for social spending.

UBI is no panacea, however — it does have its problems: many worry that UBI will lead to a significant decrease in the amount people are willing to work, and it is difficult to know the seriousness of this concern based on current evidence. Others worry that UBI may precipitate dangerous flows of migration, and hence it is crucial that if UBI is implemented, it is done so in conjunction with well-constructed migration policies.

These concerns are valid, and there is certainly a need for more evidence. Hopefully some of this will come from the upcoming basic income experiment in Finland.

Nonetheless, UBI may be an invaluable tool for combatting poverty and moving towards a more sustainable society.

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Population and food security

‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture by 2030.’ The world set itself a considerable challenge in the Sustainable Development Goals.

Population stabilisation is a key component of improving food securityCurrently, one in nine of the world’s population is chronically undernourished and, given that population is projected to grow significantly in upcoming years, much must change before hunger can be successfully and sustainably eradicated.

Our new briefing examines food demand and food security. The UK is affluent enough to guarantee food security for its population for now, yet it will not be able to do this indefinitely, due to its reliance on other countries for much of its food. The problem of food security is, by definition, a global problem. Global challenges, including climate change, environmental degradation and water scarcity, will affect the UK.

Though there are, in theory, many opportunities to improve food security across the globe, not all of these are viable in practice. Many opportunities, such as the expansion of crop land, intensify other challenges such as climate change or environmental degradation.

Moreover, it may be impossible to realise such opportunities in densely populated areas, due to a lack of space and competition with the building sector. Population growth will make these conflicts more prevalent, and consequently it is necessary that governments across the globe consider population stabilisation as a key component of improving food security.

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Why family size varies

Our new briefing examines the factors that influence family sizeThe main factors which influence disparity in family size in England and Wales are societal views on parenthood, gender relations, government policy, stereotypes about only children, the cost of raising children, social class/deprivation and mother’s country of birth.

This is the conclusion of Population Matters’ latest briefing paper, which examines family size in England and Wales and the reasons why family size differs.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 82 per cent of women who have completed their families in England and Wales have children, the majority have two or more, women are now as likely to be childless as to have three children, and one in every ten women has four or more children.

The briefing paper finds that culture and societal views on the importance of parenthood, including cultural views from parents’ countries of birth, seem to be the key drivers which encourage families to have children. Government failure to provide adequate family planning and SRE also plays an important role in why only one in five women in England and Wales do not have children, as this leads to unintended pregnancies, which make up one in six of all pregnancies in England and Wales.

Remarkably persistent negative stereotypes about the harmful effects of being an only child are an important reason why so many parents have more than one child. Religion and culture also tend to encourage people to have as many children as they can afford. However, considering the currently-staggering costs of raising children, which can now be over a quarter of million pounds, this is unlikely to be more than two children for most families. Government policy on child benefit affects how affordable children are, and thus also affects family size.

More women are pursuing higher education and entering the labour forceGender relations are another key factor in women’s decisions about how many children to have. Improving gender equality in England and Wales means that more women are pursuing higher education and entering the labour force, which means they are increasingly delaying childbirth, or indeed forgoing having children altogether, which leads to smaller families.

Overall, the total fertility rate in England and Wales has been falling, and continues to do so, driven by changing gender relations, perceptions on parenthood and, to a lesser extent, cost. More people are choosing to be childfree or to have only one child, and the number of people with larger families of three or more children is in decline.

Despite this, population in the UK as a whole is still increasing and is expected to rise by approximately 12 million people by 2050. In order to reduce this population growth, society must address the outlined factors that encourage people to have large families.

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Population & the world, 1991-2006

Population Matters was founded in 1991 to inform and educate about the dangers of unsustainable population growthThe Optimum Population Trust, now known as Population Matters, was founded in 1991 with the goal of informing and educating about the dangers posed by unsustainable population growth.

To mark the 25th anniversary of the organization, Population Matters has published a briefing paper which examines the changes that have occurred in the world since 1991 in terms of technology, demography, resource consumption and biodiversity.

There have been many societal changes in the 25 years since the organization’s inception, with rapid technological advancements, such as the development of the internet, the uptake in use of mobile phones and the rise of social media, dramatically altering the way we live.

Over the same time period, global population levels have increased by approximately two billion people, driven by high fertility rates and longer life expectancy.

Unfortunately, this increase in population levels has been accompanied by significant environmental damage. Consumption of natural resources has increased correspondingly, leading to deforestation, loss of arable land, significant declines in animal, plant and fish species, and huge increases in carbon emissions.

More people need more space and resources, meaning ever-more devastation for the planetThe briefing concludes that, given that global population levels are expected to increase by one billion to eight billion by 2030, and to 11 billion by 2100, demand for resources will continue to increase, likely causing even greater environmental damage.

To prevent this from happening, policymakers must learn from their mistakes and commit to confronting rapid population growth by making family planning services available to all, ensuring that girls around the world receive an education, and promoting smaller families.

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Our 25th anniversary

[ by Roger Martin, President. ]

24 July 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the founding of Population Matters
24 July 2016 is the 25th anniversary of the founding of Population Matters

The Optimum Population Trust (OPT) was founded by David Willey and others on 24 July 1991.

Its goals were: “to collect, analyze and disseminate information about the sizes of global and national populations and to link this to a study of carrying capacities and inhabitants’ quality of life in order to support policy decisions.”

One distinctive ambition was to get ‘pherology’ (the study of carrying capacity) recognized as a mainstream science. (The Global Footprint Network has since mainstreamed ‘Footprinting’.)

Until 2005 it was an all-volunteer body, operating more as a think-tank than a campaigning organization. It had some impressive successes. It published a magazine, and later a scientific Journal for its research; and it gained some media coverage. Its membership reached around 100 by 2002.

Roger Martin, Population Matters President
Roger Martin, Population Matters President

The global population at the time of its founding was 5.5 billion (now 7.3 bn); and the UK’s was 57.5 million (now 63.4 m). At the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, population was barely considered, though the then Secretary-General did say, memorably and presciently: “Either we reduce our population humanely, or nature will do it for us brutally.”

I joined as a humble provincial member in about 1993, recruited by founder member and geologist Willie Stanton. I was serving on a number of regional environmental bodies, where I started floating proposals to identify population growth as a multiplier of most of our problems.

It was at this time that I first encountered the ‘mad taboo’ that population must not be mentioned, which remains so damaging and still makes me angry.

The taboo arose after the 1994 Cairo Population Conference. Although its Programme of Action frequently mentioned the need to reduce population growth, certain women’s groups from the United States successfully spread the lie that any talk of ‘population’ as such, or even ‘family planning’, must mean coercive ‘population control’. These terms thus became politically incorrect, and were replaced by ‘sexual and reproductive health and rights’ (‘SRHR’).

The taboo on talking about sustainable population issues has led to reduced funding for family planningOne leader admitted that they wanted the money for contraception to be redirected to wider women’s issues; but the effect was only to reduce funding for family planning programmes. The number of women with an unmet need for contraception steadily rose thereafter, causing immense suffering. The understandable diversion of funds to address HIV/AIDS only made a bad situation worse.

This post-Cairo disaster has seriously handicapped OPT/Population Matters (PM) ever since. A whole generation of otherwise rational people, such as British environmental journalists George Monbiot and Fred Pearce, are bizarrely inhibited about discussing population, sensing vaguely that it’s ‘not really nice’, or even racist, to do so. Our mission almost boils down to ‘breaking the mad taboo.’

David and Yvette Willey at the OPT AGM, 1997 (image reprinted from Population Matters Magazine, Feb 2016)
David and Yvette Willey at the OPT AGM, 1997

Returning to organizational development, David Willey sadly died in 2000. Edmund Davey became acting Chair of OPT, with strong support from Val Stevens and Bill Partridge. In 2002, Rosamund McDougall, who had a background in financial journalism and publishing, joined as one of two Co-Chairs with Professor John Guillebaud.

OPT published high quality research and secured a steady stream of media coverage. It launched its first website in 2002 and obtained charitable status in 2006. It released John Guillebaud’s ‘Youthquake’ report in 2007 and recruited a number of notable patrons, including Sir David Attenborough.

By 2005, OPT could afford to engage the environmental journalist David Nicholson-Lord and pay Rosamund for some of her work. A major boost occurred in 2007, when OPT received a large bequest from a founder member, Jack Parsons.  A condition attached to the Will was that a home should be found for his huge population archive — a task which Edmund Davey laboured on for many months, with eventual success.

Population Matters Chief Executive Simon Ross
Population Matters Chief Executive Simon Ross

The money enabled OPT to start paying for professional services. David and Rosamund teamed up as joint Policy Directors and Julie Lewis was engaged as Administrator. Meanwhile, Val Stevens became Chair, followed by Sue Birley and then Val Stevens again. Tragically, David became ill with a terminal condition in 2008 and died, much missed, in 2014.

I became Chair in 2009, and the following year we appointed Simon Ross as Chief Executive. Activity has increased steadily since. Achievements include:

Population stabilization and reduction to sustainable levels must become a priority policy goal for governments and the UNBut outputs are not outcomes. Only when the British Government, the EU and the United Nations have declared population stabilization and reduction to sustainable levels to be a priority policy goal can we declare victory.

Meanwhile, we keep fighting that blasted taboo.

[ Article reprinted from Population Matters Magazine, Feb 2016 ]

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The UK in 2050

Our new briefing considers the contrasting effects of high or low population growth on future life in the UKEven though 2050 lies far in the future, government and business project what scenarios they might face by then. Futurologists aim to spot trends and challenges ahead of time, so that we can prepare for them.

Malthus could be called a futurologist. In this briefing, we will look at trends extrapolated from his food production variable.

It will be argued that, while economic changes, urbanisation, technological advancement and environmental degradation all influence consumption and resource-availability, population growth determines the severity of the influence of each factor.

A look at the different population projection variants shows that both quality of life and the cost of living are best safeguarded when Britain experiences low population growth. Consequently, it is clear that seeking population stabilization at a sustainable level must be included in future government policies.

Because the challenges of the future are not geographically confined, the UK will have to promote population stabilization beyond its borders as well as within. Only when the global population size stabilizes at a sustainable level, is a truly sustainable future possible. If it does not, conflicts caused by scarcity and poverty will drive millions to migrate, making it more difficult for Britain to manage its population size.

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