5. Reduce Population

We listened to Chris Tucker’s interesting podcast #57 in webpage 5.7 where he talked about the overall population issue and a potentially sustainable population for the world. In this, the second part, #58, he elaborates on ways to get there. My notes, and minutes elapsed, follow:

Christopher Tucker: Part 2 – Sex, Religion, Politics, & Overpopulation | Mar 16, 2021

6:  Taboo re discussion of topic spans the political divide;

8:  Prefers “runaway population growth” to “overpopulation”; says small, educated, prosperous families have greater control over their fate;

9:  Urbanisation reduces fertility rate;

10:  As world rapidly urbanises, need to concentrate on the first generation of urbanites to make the quick transition from the 7-8 children of agrarian families, to the 3-4 of urban families, without a generational delay;

12:  Population can be reduced by everyone, everyday; it is a choice. Failure to do so will leave us in “deterministic, monolithic chaos”;

20:  Japan doing well with a declining/ageing population;

22:  Media is the driver of panic re declining populations;

24:  Foundations, such as the Malala Foundation, very important re female education, with added benefit of reducing population and climate change;

28:  C Tucker finishes, and discussion by interviewers follow;

31:  Dave Gardner doesn’t agree re avoiding term “overpopulation”; doesn’t want to beat around the bush;

32:  Aid can get redirected away from fertility matters if not explicitly linked to programs of female education and emancipation; (also, potential Jevons Paradox here with gains from declining population wiped out by increasing consumption – MF note).

Episode 58: Christopher Tucker Part 2 — Population Balance

In a nutshell, Chris Tucker says that ‘runaway population growth’ can and must be addressed by:

  • Having fewer children; or
  • Contributing to female health, education and empowerment.

He says that the goal should be to ‘bend the fertility curve’ as quickly as possible towards 1.5%, from the current 2.5% (see Fig. 11.1, webpage 5.6).

There is probably no more powerful individual action for the environment than deciding to have fewer children, no matter where or how you live. As Chris Tucker says: “Instead of having 3-4 children, decide to have 2-3; instead of having 7-8 children, have 3-4”. This is not an accusatory statement, nor an anti-child or anti-family statement, quite the opposite: it is about maximising the care and quality of life and opportunities of one’s family. It is also about respecting the other life on earth. To put this into perspective, the University of Lund in Sweden carried out a meta-study of 39 peer-reviewed articles, carbon calculators and government sources to quantify the most high-impact lifestyle choices to limit individual carbon footprints in developed countries1The four lifestyle choices that most reduce your carbon footprint | Lund University . Way above everything else (in fact, 24 times more important than anything else!) was the decision to have one less child. A moment’s thought and honesty make this obvious, as offspring will have major carbon impacts (and other environmental impacts) each year, and indeed, throughout their lives. The authors graphically presented their results as follows (note that the scale of impact difference is so great that they have had to break and condense the vertical scale to fit in the footprint reduction of one fewer child):


(Nicholas, K., Wynes, S. 2017. The Climate Mitigation Gap1)


Further to Nicholas’ and Wynes’ article above, Murtagh and Schlax2have investigated the topic also and conclude in their abstract: “Much attention has been paid to the ways that people’s home energy use, travel, food choices and other routine activities affect their emissions of carbon dioxide and, ultimately, their contributions to global warming. However, the reproductive choices of an individual are rarely incorporated into calculations of his personal impact on the environment. Here we estimate the extra emissions of fossil carbon dioxide that an average individual causes when he or she chooses to have children. The summed emissions of a person’s descendants, weighted by their relatedness to him, may far exceed the lifetime emissions produced by the original parent. Under current conditions in the United States, for example, each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions. A person’s reproductive choices must be considered along with his day-to-day activities when assessing his ultimate impact on the global environment. ”For those wanting to read further, the full article can be found here: Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals-ScienceDirect.

Of course, for many, the choice of family size is past, or has been imposed by others, so this most powerful decision is not available. This brings us to the second way we can contribute – to female health, education and empowerment programs. When women have more say in their lifestyle, more status and information, they choose smaller families. Of course, these are vital goals in themselves for the people of the world, but if they are also linked to reducing fertility rates, then there is real hope for a liveable population in the future. There are many programs around the world trying to improve the situation of women, particularly in the Third World, and it is beyond T10s capacity to investigate them all and recommend any particular ones, so a sample of same will have to suffice. I urge readers to investigate these programs themselves and contribute as much as they can.

Chris Tucker mentioned The Malala Fund –

Malala Fund | Working for a world where all girls can learn and lead – which has a specific focus on education. If this is connected to voluntary fertility programs then girls can stay in, or attend school, and their mothers can allow them to do so, rather than be brought home to have children, or to look after children.

The United Nation’s Population Fund Supplies Partnership works effectively ‘at the coal face’ to address urgent family-planning shortfalls in materials and advice – UNFPA Supplies Partnership | United Nations Population Fund . A typical story it encounters is listed on its website and is reproduced here:

“MTENDERE, Zambia – As a high school student, Christabel Mwewa had always been ambitious and sociable. She loved to learn, particularly history, and had an affinity for making friends. When, at age 16, she learned she was pregnant, everything changed. Suddenly the studious teenager felt stigmatized. It was as though no one saw a future for her anymore.

(UNFPA, 2021. Christabel Mwewa and daughter).

“After I found out I was pregnant, the people in my community thought that I just dropped out of school, and started spreading rumours saying that because I have a child now I won’t go back to school,” she said. 

Her situation is all too common in Zambia, which has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world. Pregnant teens often do drop out of school, and they can be subjected to harmful practices, such as child marriage, as their future prospects dwindle.

But Christabel was fortunate –with UNFPA support she was able to return to school after having her baby. While excited to rejoin her fellow students, she was also anxious and uncomfortable about how she would be seen by her teachers and peers. 

“I thought people would look down on me for having a baby,” Christabel said.

But she persevered. Now 18, Christabel is still in school and dreams of practising law in order to help others and support her child’s education. 

And she is no longer worried about another unintended pregnancy complicating those plans. With support from the UNFPA Supplies Partnership, the flagship family planning programme of UNFPA, Christabel was able to access a long-acting contraceptive method to ensure that another unplanned pregnancy does not sideline her goals.”

The website gives details of how to donate to this partnership.

It must not be forgotten that although family size is much smaller in the First World, impact per person is much greater, owing to affluence and access to technology, making action in this arena important. The Population Balance website, mentioned previously re podcasts, offers useful services, particularly to women in the First World, to deal with the coercion of ‘pronatalism’. They state: “We offer the following services free of charge to help make the connections between pronatalism, reproductive and social justice, and overpopulation, as well as solutions – Liberated and Informed Choices — Population Balance – :

  • Classroom and community presentations

    (Population Balance. 2021)
  • Conference presentations
  • Podcast interviews with experts in the field
  • Webinar panels with experts in the field
  • Meetup discussions with community members.”

“We support and partner with organizations that advocate for social and reproductive justice as well as a sustainable population through initiatives, such as:

  • Providing rights-based family planning education and services, especially accessible and affordable contraception
  • Improving educational opportunities for girls and young women
  • Campaigning for incentivized family planning policies that promote the highest levels of reproductive responsibility
  • Supporting the integration of sustainable population, ecological overshoot, and comprehensive sexuality education into school curricula.”
(Population Balance. 2021)
  •  They also have an innovative idea to change the whole framework and understanding of what we call ‘family’ beyond blood/procreative ties by broadening it out to include the meaningful relationships we have with friends, animals, the natural world, and more. (They define a family as: “any set of relationship(s) that bring a sense of love, belonging, connection, care, companionship, and purpose to our lives”).


Adopting a similar approach in the UK, Population Matters is an impressive NGO which organises its solutions into five categories – Solutions | Population Matters – :

  1. Empowering woman and girls
  2. Removing barriers to contraception
  3. Quality education for all
  4. Global justice and sustainable economies
  5. Exercising choice

These are followed by examples and ways in which you can contribute. For instance, #1 ‘Empowering woman and girls’, has an implementation program called ‘Empower to Plan’, which is described thus: “To help tackle this issue, we’ve joined forces with selected grassroots NGOs to create Empower to Plan crowdfunding. It’s your chance to get behind effective family planning providers, back their projects and increase their impact. Our partners are carefully selected grassroots NGOs. Each is taking practical action, aligned with our mission and values, and with a proven track record of impact.” To donate or otherwise contribute, go to: Empower To Plan | Population Matters

(Population Matters. 2021. Women for conservation family planning)


Another example is #5 ‘Exercising choice’. There is a link here to the ‘Global Small Family’ program that asks people to sign up and commit to a smaller family – Join the Global Family | Population Matters .

Even the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which usually limits itself to more narrowly ecological concerns, such as the status of the world’s threatened species in its Red List, has explicitly embraced the urgent need for female emancipation and rights-based voluntary family planning. It states on its website that: “Gender equality and women’s empowerment are matters of fundamental human rights and social justice, as well as prerequisite for sustainable development and achieving IUCN’s mission”. It fleshed this out in its Resolution 72 at the World Congress in 2020 (WCC-2020-Res-072-EN Importance for the conservation of nature of removing barriers to rights-based voluntary family planning – WCC_2020_RES_072_EN.pdf ( ). The Resolution lists various actions to assist voluntary family planning; for example: “Form partnerships with health organisations to pilot or plan a population, health and environment (PHE) programme (a conservation model integrating sustainable and alternative conservation livelihood actions with reproductive health improvements, benefiting human and ecosystem health), this being a critical project model in areas where removing barriers to rights-based voluntary family planning can improve conservation outcomes”.


To conclude, in the Growthbusters’ film ‘Hooked on Growth’ (webpage 5.5), author and founder of the Institute for the Study of Cultural Evolution, Mike Nickerson, sums it up succinctly with:

“Will our future be a story of denial and destruction or a story of creativity and celebration?”


( 2021. Mike Nickerson. Mike Nickerson: “Living on Earth as if we want to stay.” 2021-09-22 (



1 Nicholas, K., Wynes, S. 2017. The Climate Mitigation Gap: Education and Government Recommendations Miss the Most Effective Individual Actions. Environmental Research Letters, July 12th, Vol. 12, IOP Publ., Bristol, UK.

2 Murtagh, P., Schlax, M. 2009. Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 19, Iss. 1, February.

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