The problem with ‘too many’

According to population alarmists, our world is overrun and close to bursting at the seams. Politicians, media pundits and even some academics have asserted that global challenges like economic instability, climate change and resource wars can be pinned on overpopulation – on too much demand and not enough supply.

They paint a picture of out-of-control, unstoppable birth rates, usually pointing the finger at poor and marginalized communities who have long been portrayed as reproducing recklessly and prolifically despite making the smallest contributions to issues such as environmental destruction.

This narrative oversimplifies complex issues and causes real harm.


It paints human survival as a problem, rather than an achievement.


It diverts attention away from those responsible for the real, urgent issues facing us and makes it harder to hold them to account.


It implies that women’s reproductive choices should be co-opted to solve the problem of ‘overpopulation’.

What are the facts?

>>:FACT/1 Life Expectancy

2019 72.8 years

Global life expectancy reached 72.8 years in 2019 – an increase of nearly 9 years since 1990.

It is expected to reach 77.2 years by 2050.

>>This is something to be celebrated.

2050 77.2 years

>>:FACT/2 Population Growth

Most of the projected increase in global population through 2050 will be driven by the momentum of past growth.

This means that further actions by governments aimed at reducing fertility will do little to slow the pace of growth between now and 2050.

Based on current projections

With efforts to control fertility and decrease population

2023 2046 2050

Population growth

>>:FACT/3 Emissions

Half of all emissions come from the richest 10 per cent of the world’s population: Conflating a rise in emissions with population growth is therefore mistaken.

Perhaps the most alarming outcome of the “too many” narrative is that when we blame global issues on a growing population, we imply that some of us are worthier of life than others. That some of us deserve to survive and reproduce, while others do not.

History has shown that this thinking leads us down a dark path.

It also deters us from political action, leaving us to lament the ‘inevitability’ of catastrophic overpopulation and to abandon the optimism necessary for change.

Voices of ‘too many’

Voices of ‘too many’

In a YouGov survey of almost 8,000 people across eight countries (Brazil, Egypt, France, Hungary, India, Japan, Nigeria and the United States) the most commonly held view was that the current world population was too large.

Respondents in Brazil, Egypt, India and Nigeria felt their domestic fertility rates were too high, even though Brazil and India have fertility rates below 2.1 births per woman – or what experts call the ‘replacement-level’ fertility rate.

Of the eight countries included in the survey, five (Brazil, France, Hungary, Japan and the United States) had more respondents worried about the size of the global population than about the size of their own country’s population.

Changing the narrative

Growing population threatens planet: Are we doomed?

Least responsible, most affected: How climate change harms the world's most vulnerable

National identity under threat by influx of migrants

Inclusive societies are key to developing demographic resilience

To stop climate change, have less children

To stop the climate crisis, corporations must urgently reduce emissions

Background Background

We don’t have to buy into the narrative that women’s bodies and reproductive choices are the problem and solution to ‘overpopulation’.

Instead, we can insist that our individual choices are key, and take a sexual and reproductive justice approach to supporting all forms of human progress.

This means focusing on investments in education, health care, clean and affordable energy and working towards gender equality, rather than trying to reduce the number of people on our planet.

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