Population matters to Population Matters – and it should to all of us

By Leon Kolankiewicz
October 14, 2011

The United Nations has designated October 31st, 2011 as the day on which the earth’s human population officially reaches 7 billion. Around the world, the media’s image-hungry camera lenses will point and click en masse at a bawling baby chosen to symbolize this dubious milestone.

It took our species Homo sapiens all of human history – tens of thousands of years – to reach its first billion in about 1830. This seventh billion was added in just 12 years. Unfortunately, all too many of our fellow human beings anachronistically continue to tout this as progress. One would think we were still just a tiny cave-dwelling tribe struggling to master fire, invent a better spear-point, and keep marauding saber-toothed cats and dire wolves at bay. Yet this unmistakable strain of triumphalism is manifest in a number of newspaper and magazine articles around the world celebrating the 7-billion event as a remarkable human achievement over the natural adversity and scarcity that once stymied our storied march to destiny and dominion.

The U.K.-based educational and activist group Population Matters also intends to mark October 31st, but in a different manner, by calling attention to the “unsustainability of continuing population growth.” As Population Matters sees it, ongoing population growth places enormous and intensifying strains on the environment, as well as making efforts to address crucial long-term issues like biodiversity loss and climate change ever more difficult.

As celebrated documentary filmmaker Sir David Attenborough, a Population Matters patron, puts it, “All environmental problems become harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people.”

In order to reach hundreds of thousands of Londoners with this timely message, Population Matters intends to use electronic poster boards and on-platform projections in high-volume London Underground (subway or metro) stations. These media will underscore the population challenge and invite people to join the campaign for a sustainable global population.

Population Matters marketing manager Matt Williams explains that, “We wanted to reach as many people as possible in a limited time and talk to them in an environment that itself highlights the problem of overpopulation, the overcrowded transport system.”

Population Matters’ London Underground campaign is being supported by peer-to-peer activity across the city. Local groups will use the opportunity to demonstrate how population growth adversely impacts people’s lives and makes the pursuit of sustainability ever more problematic.

In a recent news release, Population Matters reminds us that humanity depends on “the world’s ecosystems and rich biodiversity for everything we need to exist, from the regulation of our atmosphere and the pollination of plants to the creation of important new medicines and crops.” What biologists term biodiversity signifies the range and number of species and other taxa (genera, families, orders, etc.) as well as the genetic differences within given species. Population growth diminishes biodiversity through development, encroachment, exploitation and pollution.

According to Population Matters chief executive Simon Ross, “The United Nations 7 billion day is a date no one should ignore. Everyone agrees that we need to find ways to create a sustainable world for future generations….Population Matters and other population concern organisations are calling for improved overseas aid for women’s education and family planning services to enable women to have more choice in career options and family formation. Where people have choices, such as the UK, we are asking them to have ‘two or fewer’ children as part of a sustainable lifestyle.”

In an odd sort of way, it is fitting that the designated 7 Billion Day falls on Halloween. But whereas the frightful spectacles out and about on that night are merely fun and fake, the U.N.’s demographic projections – 9 billion of us by 2050 and 10 billion by 2085 – are truly frightening.


Leon Kolankiewicz is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and a consulting wildlife biologist and environmental planner whose professional career spans a quarter-century, three countries and more than 30 states. He can be reached at MistyMountainMan77@gmail.com or info@CAPSweb.org.