Population Matters, formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust, is a UK-based charity that addresses population size and its effects on environmental sustainability. It considers population growth as a major contributor to environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, resource depletion and climate change. The group promotes ethical, choice-based solutions through lobbying, campaigning and awareness-raising.
History and background
Population Matters was launched as the Optimum Population Trust following a meeting on 24 July 1991 by the late David Willey and others concerned about population numbers and sustainability. They were impelled to act by the failure of United Kingdom governments to respond to population growth and threats to sustainability.
The Optimum Population Trust prepared analyses and lobbied on issues affected by population growth. It was granted charitable status on 9 May 2006. Population Matters was adopted as its new name in 2011.
Views and aims
Population Matters highlights how rapid human population growth has fueled the destruction of nature and natural resource depletion. The charity promotes positive, voluntary measures to achieve a sustainable human population size that enables everyone to have a decent quality of life while safeguarding our natural environment.
The United Nations projects that global population size will reach 9.7 billion in the year 2050 and 10.9 in 2100, which illustrates the urgency of the matter, according to the organisation.
Population Matters' vision is of a future in which our population co-exists in harmony with nature and prospers on a healthy planet, to the benefit of all.
Population Matters' mission is to drive positive, large-scale action through fostering choices that help achieve a sustainable human population and regenerate our environment.
Population Matters promotes five solutions to slow and ultimately reverse population growth:
- Achieve global gender equality
- Remove all barriers to modern family planning
- Quality education for all
- End poverty
- Encourage small family size
In addition, recognising the disproportionately large environmental footprint of wealthy nations, the charity calls for reducing consumption in high-income countries.
Population Matters campaigns to stabilise population at a sustainable level through encouraging a culture shift towards smaller family sizes worldwide and improving funding for women's empowerment and family planning in lower income countries. Over the years, the organisation has supported various campaigns, including Caroline Lucas' Bill to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) a statutory requirement in state-funded schools. It also informs the public on overpopulation and positive solutions through its communications, events and outreach activities. Finally, the charity commissions research to examine some issues in depth, for example, analysing the latest UN population projections, or exploring the impacts of UK population growth on biodiversity.
Population Matters publishes the editorially independent Journal of Population and Sustainability, an open access, peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal exploring all aspects of the relationship between human numbers and environmental issues.
The charity runs Empower to Plan, a crowdfunding' project that offers members of the public the opportunity to donate directly towards family planning and women's empowerment projects around the world. This project superseded the carbon offsetting project called PopOffsets.
Population Matters consists of patrons, an advisory council, a board, a team of staff, volunteers and members. It relies on members and donors for its funding.
Population Matters' patrons include prominent public figures such as Sir David Attenborough, Chris Packham, Dr Jane Goodall, Leilani Münter, Jonathon Porritt, Sir Partha Dasgupta, Professor Paul Ehrlich, Lionel Shriver and Professor John Guillebaud.
In 2015, Population Matters was criticized for a blog post disagreeing with an Amnesty International call on the UK and other EU countries to "significantly increase the number of resettlement and humanitarian admission places for refugees from Syria" while saying that these "countries should continue to support migrants from the Syrian civil war and other conflicts in the countries adjacent to those conflicts". The organization subsequently confirmed that this had never been official Population Matters policy and had been repudiated and withdrawn. The Optimum Population Trust had called for numerically balanced or "zero-net" migration to the UK, but did not continue to support this policy as Population Matters. In 2015, Population Matters advocated stopping child benefit and tax credits for third and subsequent children. In 2017, the organization stopped advocating for specific policy changes, replacing them with a call for a Sustainable Population Policy.