This document provides some news and information about the state of our global population. Information below is listed chronologically with the most recent at the top. Entry headers include source and date. Some commentary for context is at the top of this document.
This document is a companion to a longer population reference guide organized by topic. The information below is updated for 2022 with recent news and developments.
Considerable space below has been given to points raised by a 2017 report signed by 21,000 scientists. It has become a significant source of establishing the basis for population discussions.
These are a few resources for further reading and research.
- Brookings Report — “Both natural increase and immigration contributions to population growth became markedly reduced in 2020-21, in large part due to the pandemic. … The national growth slowdown exerted a broad impact across the nation’s states. Among the nation’s 50 states and Washington, D.C., 31 showed lower growth … The states that led in growth rates were mostly in the Mountain West, including Idaho, Utah, Montana, and Arizona, which had annual rates exceeding 1.4%. In terms of numeric growth, the biggest gainers in 2020-21 were Texas (310,000 people), Florida (211,000), Arizona (98,000), and North Carolina (93,000).” [More]
- Population Connection — “Overpopulation threatens the quality of life for people everywhere. Population Connection is the national grassroots population organization that educates young people and advocates progressive action to stabilize world population at a level that can be sustained by Earth’s resources. Founded in 1968, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth or ZPG) is the largest grassroots population organization in the United States! We have more than 40,000 members and hundreds of thousands more supporters and participating educators working together to build a more sustainable future for the planet and all its inhabitants.” [More]
- UNCTAD Report — “According to UN estimates, the world population passed the 8 billion mark on 15 November. Over the past 25 years, the number of people on the planet has increased by one third, or 2.1 billion. Humanity is expected to grow by another fifth to just under 10 billion around 2050. In the last 25 years, almost all the growth happened in developing economies, mainly in Asia and Oceania (1.2 billion more people) and Africa (an additional 700 million individuals). This trend is expected to continue, with half of the projected increase in world population between now and 2050 expected to occur in a few larger countries in Africa and Asia. As the population has grown, the share of people living in developing countries has increased from 66% in 1950 to 83% now and should reach 86% by 2050. This underlines the importance of tackling the challenges that affect these nations, such as hunger, access to clean water and sanitation and health services, and getting people connected to affordable sources of sustainable electricity and the Internet.” [More]
Concerns about overpopulation usually involve three main issues:
- RESOURCE SCARCITY — Scarcity of resources like clean air, clean water, food, education, jobs, and housing is a problem. There is also a concern about diminishing supplies of non-renewable resources like natural gas, oil, coal, and over harvested forests. For more, read the 2022 report on water scarcity.
- NEGATIVE OUTPUTS — In addition to the supply-side concerns about necessary resources, there is concern about waste, pollution, and other impacts of excessive population.
- BIGGER PROBLEMS — A larger number of people results in larger wide-scale problems. Wars are bigger. Oil spills are bigger. Deforestation impacts larger areas. Strip-mining, fracking, and other industrial activities which might be okay on a smaller scale, or at a scale that is more destructive. Development and higher density to accommodate more people results in poorer management of rainwater leading to damaging flooding. For more information, read the 2022 Global Flooding News report.
This document provides an assortment of recent news stories about these issues.
The elimination of habitats seems to be resulting in an extinction problem for many species. The Overpopulation Project states: “People are rapidly displacing wildlife species across the globe, initiating a mass extinction event. Second, we are degrading ecosystems that provide essential, irreplaceable environmental services that future generations will need to live decent lives. Both these trends are driven, in large part, by immense and unprecedented numbers of human beings. Because there are too many of us to share the Earth fairly with other species and with future human generations, Earth is overpopulated.” [Source]
Many Problems. One Cause.
As you will read in the news reports below, overpopulation creates numerous problems. As a global society, we are struggling to address these many problematic outcomes rather than addressing the core causes the problems.
Consensus in Science Community
The Second World Scientists Warning to Humanity (Ripple et al., 2017) has now been signed by 21,000 scientists. [Web | PDF] The report states: “We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”
The report concludes that the earth can sustain about 2 billion people if everyone wants to live at the US standard of consumption. Or 4 billion if we can ask most people to live in poverty.
The report points out that concerns about overpopulation are grounded in compassion for humanity as well as wildlife: “The loss of nonhuman life via massive extinction is we believe a tragedy. The loss of human life due to pushing ecosystems into collapse (including agro-ecosystems) would equally be a tragedy. Thus, talking about overpopulation is not anti-human but pro-human. Population activism seeks to avoid mega-death (both human and nonhuman). Similarly, it wishes to avoid a situation where international conflict and war are increased.”
Advocates of population-control face resistance. As the report states: “Any discussion of balance, harmony, or planetary and human healing (Washington, 2019) becomes impossible if population-control advocates are pejoratively branded as ‘rabid environmentalists’, ‘misanthropes’, ‘racists’, or even betrayers of the human race (discussed by Kopnina & Washington, 2016). Not only is such branding counter-productive, it reduces the very possibility of finding solutions to ensure a secure future for all the generations of tomorrow (human and nonhuman).”
The report concludes: “We are faced with three major drivers of unsustainability – overpopulation, overconsumption and the endless growth economy. Clearly, talking about any of these is not easy, as society is in denial of all of them (Washington, 2018b). Nevertheless, to reach a meaningful ‘sustainability’ we believe society does have to engage in dialogue about all of them. The denial of human overpopulation is a major problem for both nature and humanity. We must see and act on all the ‘elephants in the room’ (Zerubavel, 2006), and that means that overpopulation can no longer be ignored or denied. Overpopulation and overconsumption are entwined, and must be solved concurrently. Causal Layered Analysis shows why society finds it so hard to accept the reality of the data that the ‘Scientists Warning’ so clearly demonstrates. However, while much of society and academia continue to ignore overpopulation as a key driver of unsustainability, any chance of being able to solve the environmental crisis will remain vanishingly small. The ‘Scientists Warning to Humanity’ shows that society’s current path of overpopulation and overconsumption is fundamentally unsustainable. This warning needs to be accepted and acted on.”
Deutsche Welle (28 Dec 2022)
“Too many people? The challenges of demographic change” — There are now eight billion people on the planet, more than at any point in history. In many ways, population growth reflects progress: improved access to healthcare has led to a rise in life expectancy and a decline in infant mortality. Yet the swelling number of people has also led to problems. Rapid urbanization and growing demand for resources has had a detrimental environmental impact. In regions with swelling youth populations, young people often do not have sufficient access to opportunities. Other parts of the world are grappling with the opposite problem: their populations are aging rapidly and there are not enough young people to support them. In this video, we look at examples of demographic challenges in India, Nigeria and Poland and ask: what are governments doing to tackle demographic trends? We also consider the impact a surging global population will have on the long-term health of the planet. [Source]
PBS (4 Dec 2022)
“How countries are trying to tackle the plastic pollution problem together” — This week, representatives from 150 nations are meeting in Uruguay with the goal of dramatically reducing or eliminating all plastic pollution by 2040. Meanwhile, U.S. lawmakers introduced a new bill to help curtail the harmful impacts of plastic waste. Washington Post reporter Michael Birnbaum joins Amna Nawaz to discuss. [Source]
ABC Australia (15 Nov 2022)
“There are 8 billion people on Earth, but soon we’ll hit a decline we might never reverse” — The United Nations estimates that on November 15, the world will have a population of 8 billion people. China remains the biggest country for now. But India will overtake it very soon. And Africa is growing faster than anywhere else. ABC Data Analyst Casey Briggs finds out what this will mean for the future. [Watch Video on YouTube]
NPG (8 Nov 2022)
“NPG’s New Forum Paper Looks at U.S. Schools Struggling to Keep up with New Enrollments” — Across the country, school districts are finding it increasingly difficult to fulfill the educational needs of their students. Classrooms are at capacity while school administrators scramble to hire teachers to meet the demand for educators. [Source]
Business Insider (22 Aug 2022)
“The child-free life could save you $300,000 per kid” — A new estimate from the Brookings Institution finds it costs over $300,000 to raise a kid in the US. The estimate reflects inflation’s impact on the cost of everything from food to gas to housing. The hefty price tag could discourage even more Americans from having kids. [Source]
Reuters (10 Aug 2022)
“Satellite imagery shows Antarctic ice shelf crumbling faster than thought” — Taken together, thinning and calving have reduced the mass of Antarctica’s ice shelves by 12 trillion tons since 1997, double the previous estimate, the analysis concluded. The net loss of the continent’s ice sheet from calving alone in the past quarter-century spans nearly 37,000 sq km (14,300 sq miles), an area almost the size of Switzerland, according to JPL scientist Chad Greene, the study’s lead author. “Antarctica is crumbling at its edges,” Greene said in a NASA announcement of the findings. “And when ice shelves dwindle and weaken, the continent’s massive glaciers tend to speed up and increase the rate of global sea level rise.” The consequences could be enormous. Antarctica holds 88% of the sea level potential of all the world’s ice, he said. [Source]
- COMMENT: While there will inevitably be a debate about the extent humans are responsible for climate change, there is no debate that the impact of sea level rise on coastal communities. Regardless of the cause, populations may need to reduce in these areas.
Bill Maher (29 Jul 2022)
“New Rule: Let the Population Collapse” — Instead of worrying about population decline, we should be celebrating it. [Source]
The Ocean Cleanup (28 Jul 2022)
“The Problem of Plastic Pollution in the Rio Motagua, Guatemala” — For over three years we have been working on developing an Interceptor project in the Rio Motagua basin in Guatemala, which suffers yearly trash tsunamis, devastating the environment. [Source]
Soraya Field Fiorio via TED-Ed (31 Aug 2021)
“The infamous overpopulation bet: Simon vs. Ehrlich – Soraya Field Fiorio” — Discover an infamous bet between two professors, which sought to predict whether the earth would run out of resources due to a growing human population. In 1980, Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon bet $1,000 on a question with stakes that couldn’t be higher: would the earth run out of resources to sustain a growing human population? They bet $200 on the price of five metals. If the price of a metal decreased or held steady over the next decade, Simon won. If the price increased, Ehrlich won. So, what happened? Soraya Field Fiorio investigates. [Source]
Bill Gates (14 Feb 2021)
“This tool will help us get to zero emissions” — The world needs to get to zero emissions by 2050 if we’re going to prevent the worst effects of climate change. In my book “How to Avoid a Climate Disaster”, I introduce a new tool called the Green Premium. It helps us see which zero-carbon solutions we should deploy now and where we should pursue breakthroughs. [Source]
- NOTE: This is an example of an alternative to reducing population. However, the research, effort, investment, and engineering costs are high.
CNBC (6 Jan 2021)
“Is The U.S. Running Out Of People?” — The US is facing an aging population, falling birth rate and economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. These issues will have huge implications on the size of the workforce and the consumer base. Watch the video to find out why America could be confronting an underpopulation problem and what business leaders and policymakers can do about it. [Source]
Deutsche Welle (13 Nov 2020)
“Is overpopulation really a problem for the planet?” — Developing countries have long been blamed for destroying the environment with their large families. Overpopulation has been identified as the enemy. But how accurate is this claim exactly? We’re destroying our environment at an alarming rate. But it doesn’t need to be this way. Our new channel Planet A explores the shift towards an eco-friendly world — and challenges our ideas about what dealing with climate change means. We look at the big and the small: What we can do and how the system needs to change. Every Friday we’ll take a truly global look at how to get us out of this mess. [Source]
VOX (17 Apr 2020)
“World’s Water Crisis” — In partnership with Vox Media Studios and Vox, this enlightening explainer series will take viewers deep inside a wide range of culturally relevant topics, questions, and ideas. Each episode will explore current events and social trends pulled from the zeitgeist, touching topics across politics, science, history and pop culture — featuring interviews with some of the most authoritative experts in their respective fields. In this episode: The global water crisis is at an inflection point. How do we price our most valuable resource, while also ensuring access to it as a human right? [Source]
Cole Diggins via University of Missouri (Summer 2019)
“A-po(pulation)-ca-lypse- The Danger of Overpopulation on the Environment Within America” — At a current 327 million people in U.S. (US Census Bureau, 2018), overpopulation is at the core of many U.S. environmental issues. Understanding this challenge is a necessity for today’s millennials and the aging population alike. Population growth factors, governmental regulations, carrying capacity, and scientific discoveries all contribute to this diverse subject. Too many humans will impair the environmental health of the United States. Whether it is due to the overconsumption of natural resources, food, and energy; the degradation of soils and deforestation; or the overwhelming production of waste and pollution, the overpopulation of the U.S. may cause its own apocalyptic demise. [Source]
Pascal Costa via TEDx (16 Feb 2018)
“Overpopulation is a huge problem. We have too many people, & because of our immense growth experienced in the last century, we are experiencing new problems. Because of overpopulation, we have recklessly produced dirty energy & destroyed fertile land to meet the needs of our ever-expanding population. Forests have been decimated in order to make room for farmland & to produce lumber. We have exploited natural resources such as soil, water minerals, oil, & coal because we have grown dependent on them. As a result of our growing numbers & exploitation of natural resources, we have caused the extinction of 130 mammal species, & have endangered 250 species. Today, about 1000 species are now threatened. Through overpopulation, we have increased pollution, consumption, & the deterioration of land. There’s a simple way to reduce the world’s population & I’ll share my idea with you. Pascal Costa founded Preventing OverPopulation, a non-profit organization that educates child-bearing people about how their decisions to have children directly affect the world. She has presented her project at the Earth Day Santa Cruz festival and she was interviewed on Earth Watch Radio. Pascal recently graduated from high school and plans to continue to advocate for population control in college. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.” — [Source]
Barry University (13 Aug 2016)
“Too Many Humans, Dwindling Resources, and not Enough Space” — The role human overpopulation plays in the environment is continuously growing and undeniable. The topic is intertwined with political, ethical, and moral implications and has become an almost taboo subject, but that does not lessen the importance of opening the lines of communication and creating a dialogue to begin the exchange of ideas to collectively reach a solution. It is an unexpected problem in which everyone contributes and affects the rest of the planet. Not discussing the effects of overpopulation increases the risk of crossing more planetary barriers, which leads to catastrophic consequences with irreversible effects for our planet, its species, and us. [Source]
- CITATION: Martinez, Jorge. T. (2016) “Too Many Humans, Dwindling Resources, and not Enough Space,” Environmental and Earth Law Journal (EELJ): Vol. 6 : Iss. 1 , Article 3.
BBC (15 Aug 2015)
“Overpopulation: Will we run out of space?” — We live in a time of unprecedented population growth. People born 60 years ago have seen the population of the world triple. In the UK, in the past 100 years, the population has grown by over 20 million. But why is our population growing? What are the consequences if it doesn’t stop? And is population growth necessarily a bad thing? Our reporter Benjamin Zand has been finding out. [Source]
Alexandra Paul via TEDx (3 Jan 2013)
“Overpopulation facts – the problem no one will discuss: Alexandra Paul at TEDxTopanga” — The description below is from the YouTube page. [Source]
Actress Alexandra Paul breaks the silence on one of the most taboo subjects of our time: human overpopulation and how to resolve the crisis that is adding 220,000 more people to the planet every day. In this fact filled talk, Alexandra discusses the overpopulation problems of 7 billion humans multiplying at a rate of 1 billion more people every 12 years and offers a simple solution: Transform negative cultural attitudes about the Only Child, and celebrate the short and long term benefits of small families.
Alexandra reminds us that coercion in any form is not the answer to changing cultural and biological norms. Instead, rewiring our biology through strong cultural messaging, education of girls and empowerment of women are the solutions to stopping the current momentum towards 10 billion people on the planet in 40 years.
Alexandra emphasizes that because each American born uses so many more resources than someone from a developing country, it is equally important that wealthy countries have small families. She discusses the economic tradeoffs of a smaller population in a world where capitalism reigns: because the capitalist system depends upon more and more consumers, there are strong forces at work to keep the numbers of people on earth growing. But at what expense?
And since human numbers cannot keep getting larger forever, at what point will we change our ways? When it is too late?
Most controversially, Alexandra believes that, if humans are to survive on this planet, the ideal family has one child and the ideal number of people on earth is 2 billion. “If that is too radical, then it is time for radicalism. Too much is at stake to be polite.” This talk is full of overpopulation facts.
Science Show (11 Mar 2021)
“The Science of Overpopulation” — Hank talks about the issues of rising global population. [Source]