Population Matters

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Population Matters
Population Matters logo.jpg
Founded 1991; 27 years ago (1991)
Founder David Willey
Type Environmental charity
Sustainability organisation
Think tank
Advocacy group
Focus Promotion of smaller families,[1] and sustainable consumption.[2]
Method Research, education, campaigning and lobbying
Key people
CEO, Simon Ross
Slogan for a sustainable future
Website populationmatters.org
Formerly called
Optimum Population Trust

Population Matters, formerly known as the Optimum Population Trust,[3] is a population concern think tank and campaign group expressing concern about the impact of population growth on sustainability, quality of life and the natural environment, specifically natural resources, climate change, and biodiversity.

History and background

The Optimum Population Trust was founded in 1991 by the late David Willey and others who say that "They were impelled to act by the failure of UK governments to respond to a series of recommendations regarding population growth and sustainability."[4] Their goals were to collect, analyse and disseminate information about the sizes of global and national populations and to link this to a study of carrying capacities and inhabitants’ quality of life in order to support policy decisions.[4] The organisation's UK predecessors comprise: The Malthusian League (1877); The Simon Population Trust (1957); The Conservation Society (1966) and Population Concern (1974) an organisation that ultimately merged with Plan UK in 2013.[5]

It prepared analyses and lobbied on issues affected by population growth, including welfare, education, labour supply, population ageing, immigration and the environment. It also lobbied developmental and environmental campaigners on the need to incorporate population issues in their thinking.[4] It was granted charitable status on 9 May 2006.[6] Population Matters was adopted as its campaign name in 2011.[3]

Population Matters carries out research on climate change, energy requirements, biodiversity, and other issues in relation to population numbers.[7] With the vision of reducing populations voluntarily in order to enable acceptable quality of life and protection of wildlife and the environment,[8] it campaigns to stabilize population at a sustainable level through initiating a culture shift towards smaller family sizes worldwide and improving resources for women's empowerment programmes and family planning in lower income countries.[9]

Views and aims

Population Matters states that its intermediate aims are: improved provision of family planning and sex education, better education and rights for women, and that couples voluntarily smaller families. For the UK specifically, it advocates greater effort to reduce the high rates of teenage pregnancy and unintended pregnancy and more balanced migration for reasons of sustainability.

Population concern

Population concern is presented as: "fundamentally a concern about the balance between human needs and the resources available to meet those needs, now, and for the foreseeable future."[5]

A study conducted by a graduate from the London School of Economics and sponsored by Population Matters found that, for the past 30 years, increasing population size (driven by high fertility rates) was the primary reason for the number of people living in poverty across the 20 highest fertility nations, despite more people in these countries receiving aid.[10] In addition to this, Population Matters has stated that continued growth has been affecting the living standards of people of the UK, particularly in the South East of England and London.[11][12] The benefits of moderating population size are not limited to raising living standards and general environmental protection. In 2009, Population Matters issued a study asserting that contraception was also the cheapest way of combating climate change.[13]

Population Matters is concerned that the planet may not be able to support more than half of its present numbers before the end of the century. [14] In a recent survey commissioned by Population Matters, it was found that the majority of people surveyed shared these concerns, with four out of five (84%) thinking that the world population was too high and over half (53%) thinking that world population was much too high.[15]

Campaigns and initiatives

Population Matters is the largest population concern advocacy group in the UK.[16] With its members firmly believing that population can be stabilized and then reduced without coercion,[17] Population Matters actively campaigns for sustainable population size in the UK and overseas[18] and raises awareness about overpopulation, encouraging and enabling people to opt for a smaller family size.[17]


Population Matters has been criticised for calling for "zero-net migration" to the UK, and in December 2013, argued that the UK should accept no refugees from Syria.[19] In the same year, they supported a UK government policy of stopping child benefit and tax credits for third and subsequent children; a policy described by journalist Polly Toynbee as representing “a eugenic undercurrent in Tory thinking".[20][21]

Overshoot Index

The Population Matters Overshoot Index presents assessments of the extent to which countries and regions of the world are considered to be able to support themselves on the basis of their own renewable resources.[22]


Probably the most famed patron of Population Matters is naturalist David Attenborough, who has been outspoken in his advocacy for the cause for many years. [23] He has been vocal about the growing population in recent years and backs Population Matters in campaigning for a "more sustainable future."[23][24]


The patrons are:[25]


A list of Population Matters board members can be found on the Population Matters website.[29]


A list of Population Matters team members, which may be composed of both staff and volunteers, can be found on the Population Matters website.[30]


Members receive publications but have no entitlement to vote. Active supporter members can apply for voting rights and can then stand for election to the board.[29][31]

See also


  1. "Smaller families". populationmatters.org. 
  2. "Consume mindfully". populationmatters.org. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Optimum Population Trust". UK Web Archive. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 "Story". populationmatters.org/. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Population concern". www.populationmatters.org. 
  6. "Charities' Commission: Charity Number: 1114109". Charities' Commission. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  7. "Optimum Population". Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  8. "Breaking the Taboo about Human Population Growth a talk by Population Matters". meetup.com. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  9. "Why current population growth is costing us the Earth". The Guardian. 23 October 2011. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  10. "What Population Growth Means for Development". capacity4dev.eu. European Commission. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  11. "UK population rises 400,00 to 64m". Yorkshire Post. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  12. "UK population increases by 400,000". Belfast Telegraph. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  13. "'Contraception cheapest way to combat climate change'". The Telegraph. 9 September 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  14. "Sir David Attenborough backs campaign to limit human population". The Telegraph. 4 April 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  15. "Population Growth and Migration". Independence Educational Publishers. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  16. Wesley J. Smith (27 January 2016). "Population Matters: We are "Plague of Locusts"". National Review Online. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 "Population Control: the last great environmental taboo?". Vabishingspecies. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  18. "The pressure is on for public services as the UK's population reaches 64 Million". The Express. 26 June 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  19. "Amnesty wrong on accepting conflict migrants". populationmatters.org. Archived from the original on 27 January 2014. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  20. Ramsay, Adam. "The charity which campaigned to ban Syrian refugees from Britain". Opendemocracy.org. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  21. Polly, Toynbee. "If you think people shouldn't have kids if they can't afford them, think again". Guardian.com. Retrieved 6 May 2016. 
  22. "Overshoot Index 2011" (PDF). The Overshoot Index assesses the extent to which a country can support itself from its own renewable resources, by measuring current per capita consumption against per capita biocapacity. ... 
  23. 23.0 23.1 "Sir David Attenborough backs campaign to limit human population". The Telegraph. 14 April 2009. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  24. "Sir David Attenborough: Humans are a plague". The Express. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  25. "Patrons". populationmatters.org/. 
  26. "Attenborough warns on population". bbc.co.uk/. 
  27. "David Attenborough to be patron of Optimum Population Trust, 9th June 2009". www.thetimes.co.uk. 
  28. "Attenborough joins campaign to curb world's population". dailymail.co.uk. 
  29. 29.0 29.1 "Board". www.populationmatters.org. Population Matters. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  30. "Team". Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  31. "Members". www.populationmatters.org/. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 

External links