In today’s issue of our bi-monthly population news update, we’d like to highlight the results of a national online study, the “Contraception and Consumption in the Age of Extinction” survey that was carried out by The Center for Biological Diversity, a U.S.-based activist organization for endangered species.
The survey was an attempt to fill a knowledge gap on what the public thinks about population and consumption and their impacts on wildlife and the environment. As the Center notes, “Researchers, academics and activists acknowledge population growth and consumption affect the environment, but few social scientists have studied what the general public thinks of these subjects.”
The Center surveyed 899 people distributed evenly across each of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia adjusted in proportion to the U.S. Census Bureau’s population estimates for 2018 to achieve statistically accurate results.
The full report is available here, but among the top-level highlights were the following:
Seventy-three percent of respondents think the world’s population is growing too fast, a 23% increase over the 2013 survey results.
Nearly three quarters of respondents (73%) agree human population growth is driving other animal species to extinction, a 13% increase over 2013 survey results.
More than half of respondents (60%) see biodiversity loss as caused by both human population growth and consumption levels.
A vast majority of respondents (85%) think society has a moral responsibility to prevent wildlife extinctions and a majority (69%) think society has a moral responsibility to slow human population growth if it would help prevent extinctions.
These results indicate to us that overpopulation and overconsumption have the potential to be pushed to the forefront of public consciousness in the same vein as climate change. Population Institute Canada strives to raise awareness through our social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) and our mailouts, such as this one. Other organizations have also reached out to the public. The U.S.-based World Population Balance initiated a “One Planet One Child” campaign and promoted its message on billboards and transit stops, most recently in Vancouver. The Population Media Center catalyzes change in attitudes on population-related issues through TV and radio shows in over 50 countries. Population Matters (UK) and Sustainable Population Australia are active in their respective countries.
As advocates for smaller families and a much smaller global human population, we note that over the past 50 years, as human populations have doubled, wildlife populations have plummeted by half. Extraction, production and consumption have an outsized impact on the planet; if everyone in the world lived the way Americans do today, it would take five Earths to sustain us. But a global population growing by over 80 million people annually, or about one billion every 12 years, almost entirely in the developing world, is equally unsustainable. Rapid population growth keeps millions mired in poverty, depletes local resources, and results in poor employment prospects for large numbers of people.
Surveys such as the one carried out by the Center for Biological Diversity indicate that the public is increasingly ready to have broader discussions about population matters. It is up to organizations like ours to help channel that awareness to the attention of our leaders, most of whom still operate under the growth-forever paradigm. It may be slow going, but we need to keep going!