Population Matters

Population Matters
Founded 1991 (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
Chair, Andrew Macnaughton
Slogan for a sustainable future
Website populationmatters.org
Formerly called
Optimum Population Trust

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, resource depletion, conflict and involuntary migration and societal problems such as housing scarcity and transport congestion.

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 a series of recommendations regarding population growth and sustainability.[3]

The Optimum Population Trust prepared analyses and lobbied on issues affected by population growth. It also lobbied developmental and environmental campaigners on the need to incorporate population issues in their thinking. It was granted charitable status on 9 May 2006.[4] Population Matters was adopted as its campaign name in 2011.[5]

Views and aims

Population Matters aims to achieve a future with decent living standards for all, a healthy and biodiverse environment and a sustainable population size.[6] The charity holds the following policy positions:


Population growth increases damages to the environment and depletes natural resources. Therefore, human numbers should be reduced voluntarily to a sustainable level that enables an acceptable quality of life for all.

Development and climate change

Population growth increases the number of wealthy carbon emitters and poorer climate change victims and hampers mitigation and adaptation efforts. In 2016, humanity used the sustainable resource output of 1.6 Earths.[9]

Women’s rights and reproductive health

Women’s empowerment and gender equality are essential for reproductive health, economic development and population stabilization. Population Matters therefore support programmes to improve the status of women.


Migration often results from conflict, poverty, inequality or population and consumption pressures. Population Matters calls for fair trade terms and increased foreign aid and knowledge transfer to promote sustainable development, global justice and resilience.

Ageing and parenthood

Population Matters rejects the case that more young people are required to care for an increasing number of elderly. It believes that governments should promote responsible parenthood and limit subsidies to the first two children unless a family is living in poverty.


Population Matters campaigns to stabilize population at a sustainable level through encouraging a culture shift towards smaller family sizes worldwide and improving resources for women's empowerment and family planning in lower income countries.[19][20] Over the years, the organization has supported various campaigns, including Caroline Lucas’ Bill to make Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) a statutory requirement in state funded schools.[21] It also produces material to help its supporters raise awareness of population growth.[22]

The charity also runs PopOffsets, a project that offers members of the public the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions by donating towards family planning projects around the world.[23]

Other activities include the Population Matters Overshoot Index, which 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. It also produces short films, such as “Zombie Overpopulation”.[24][25]

Organisational structure

Population Matters consists of patrons, an advisory council, a board and, a team of staff and volunteers and members. It relies on members and donors for its funding.[26]


Population Matters' patrons include prominent and successful public figures such as the broadcaster Sir David Attenborough, the economist Sir Partha Dasgupta, the biologist Professor Paul Ehrlich, the primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, Professor John Guillebaud and the politician Baroness Shreela Flather.[27]

Local groups

Population Matters encourages its members to create and run local groups in their communities. There are currently nine of these groups that are recognised by the organisation in the UK. Most of them meet regularly at local venues to discuss population and sustainability issues with like-minded people.[28]


In 2013, Population Matters was criticised for calling for “zero-net migration” to the UK and for supporting a UK government policy of stopping child benefit and tax credits for third and subsequent children.[29]

See also


  1. "Smaller families". populationmatters.org.
  2. "Consume mindfully". populationmatters.org.
  3. "People & story - Population Matters". Population Matters. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  4. "Charity overview". Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  5. "UK Web Archive". www.webarchive.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  6. "Vision & values - Population Matters". Population Matters. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  7. "Living Planet Report 2014". wwf.panda.org. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  8. "World Population Prospects The 2015 Revision" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  9. "World Footprint". Global Footprint Network. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  10. "Inequality and Environmental Sustainability" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  11. "The State of Consumption Today | Worldwatch Institute". www.worldwatch.org. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  12. "Contraction and Convergence Homepage". www.gci.org.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  13. "Women's Empowerment". UNDP. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  14. "Population and Poverty: New Views on an Old Controversy". Guttmacher Institute. 2005-02-02. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  15. "Conflict & migration - Population Matters". Population Matters. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  16. Clark, Duncan (2011-04-21). "Which nations are most responsible for climate change?". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  17. Valenzuela, Dr Rebecca (2015-03-23). "The economics of an ageing population". The Age. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  18. "Managing an ageing society" (PDF). Population Matters. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  19. "Central London Humanists". Meetup. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  20. Martin, Roger (2011-10-23). "Why current population growth is costing us the Earth | Roger Martin". the Guardian. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  21. "PSHE briefing for MPs | Caroline Lucas". www.carolinelucas.com. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  22. "London's population to grow by a quarter - Population Matters". Population Matters. 2016-05-25. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  23. "PopOffsets > Contact". www.popoffsets.org. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  24. "Population Matters — Media Trust". www.mediatrust.org. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  25. "Overshoot Index" (PDF). Population Matters. 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2016.
  26. "People & story - Population Matters". Population Matters. Retrieved 2016-06-02.
  27. "Patrons - Population Matters". Population Matters. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  28. "Local groups - Population Matters". Population Matters. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  29. "The charity which campaigned to ban Syrian refugees from Britain". openDemocracy. 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2016-06-09.

Official website

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