Most advocates of sustainable population levels believe reducing population is just part of the work needed to bring our civilization into sustainable equilibrium. For the wealthiest populations, reducing consumption, contracting our economies (degrowth), and eventually reaching a steady state economy are also essential.

World population reached 7 billion in 2011. Scientific estimates of the population the Earth can sustainably support range from under 1 billion to 5 billion. It all depends on how simply we live (in other words, how much we in the developed world are willing to curb consumption and contract our economies).

It also depends on whether the developing world follows in our mistaken footsteps or takes a more direct route to a sustainable way of life. The more people with needs to be met, the greater this challenge. Attempting to curb consumption and “green” our practices while ignoring population growth is like stepping on the brake but keeping the accelerator pressed to the floor.

It is true the rate of population increase is slowing, but there is no guarantee that will continue, particularly if projections cause us to relax and discontinue efforts to educate the public about sustainable population, provide access to contraception, and increase gender equity and opportunity. Since at current consumption levels our population has overshot sustainable equilibrium, there is nothing to relax about.

Additionally, today many cities, states, territories and nations welcome and even pursue population growth. Some openly admit they link population growth with economic growth. Nations with declining population are attempting to increase low fertility rates in their obsession with economic growth. It’s difficult to imagine a sustainable world full of communities with such unsustainable goals and behaviors.

This film explores the beliefs and propaganda that fuel these attitudes and policies. In many cases they are perpetuated by the elite growth pushers, those who profit from growth.

Global Population Surpassed Earth’s Carrying Capacity In The Last Century

  • Human Impact = Population X Resource Intensity
  • The higher our global population, the harder we have to work to achieve sustainability.
  • Most estimates of Earth’s carrying capacity range from less than 1 to 5 billion human population.
  • Current Global Population is 7 billion and estimated by UN to reach 8 to 10.5 billion by 2050.
  • It’s estimated we need nearly 1.5 Earth’s to sustainably support today’s population at current global average consumption levels.
  • Some nations are creating financial incentives (“Baby Bonuses”) for larger families, to reverse their declining populations – out of concern their economies will suffer.
  • Most cities and regions also seek or welcome added population in the belief that growth creates economic prosperity.

For More Information

NOTE: These links are provided to help you access more information and explore a variety of perspectives. We can’t possibly agree with everything posted on all these websites or written in every book we mention. Listing here is not an endorsement.

Please e-mail dave [at] growthbusters[dot] org to suggest additions to this list.





Population and Consumption

For Your Bookshelf

Economic Growth Population Growth Urban Growth Over-Consumption Buy the Film