Population Matters



Total human consumption is greater than that which the earth can sustain indefinitely. To enable future prosperity for all, including the poor of the world, wealthier communities must reduce their numbers and consumption. Individuals and societies should consider how human happiness can be maintained and increased while reducing reliance on limited materials.


Modern humans have been on Earth for approximately 200 centuries. True sustainability means providing every person now alive, as well as generations yet to come, with a reasonable standard of living that can be maintained into the foreseeable future.


Today humanity uses the resources of the equivalent of about 1.5 Earths. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year.

Present lifestyles in the richer countries have a disproportionate impact. For example, the ecological footprint per capita of the United States is more than 10 times that of Malawi or Mozambique.

Some expenditure, such as that on arms or promotional activity, could arguably be reduced if society’s focus was more on human happiness and less on gross domestic product growth and state and commercial competition.

Logging on a river

You can help by consciously living more sustainably in your use of technology and personal priorities. This depends on both big decisions such as whether or not to go on a long-haul flight, and the large number of smaller choices you make on a day-to-day basis: waste less, reuse and recycle more, consume less meat and fewer dairy products, resist the blandishments of our consumer culture and decide which ‘benefits’ of modern society really matter to you.

Read more about sustainable consumption and sustainable technology.

Next: Poverty & development