Ending Overshoot
Published in

Ending Overshoot

You Deserve the Truth About Overpopulation

We’re speaking up for children

Group of very happy children

Billboards in Vancouver celebrating small-family decisions have been getting that city, Canada, and the world talking. One response has been, “no one should tell me how many children I can have.” I agree — we’re all free to make our own family-size choice. We’re not proposing anyone’s family-size be dictated — not by us and not by government. We do think this important decision should be fully informed.

Transit ad in Vancouver reads “Overpopulation presents bleak job prospects, traffic congestion, sky high rents, pandemics.”

Bringing a child into the world is the most significant decision you make in your life. Making an informed decision is in everyone’s best interest, especially the child’s. You deserve to know the truth about conditions that will affect the quality of that child’s life. This decision shouldn’t be left to chance, and it should be free of pressure from big business, government, religion, prospective grandparents and society at large. One example of such pressure is that, for some time, Canadians have been told their low birth rate endangers funding for social programs. You’re told the nation won’t have enough workers, preventing robust economic growth. This is a prime example of “Ponzi demography.”

You deserve to know we’re in overshoot. Analysts tell us we’re demanding from the Earth almost twice what she can sustainably provide. We’ve outgrown the planet, and whether we stay in overshoot or successfully contract our society’s footprint will have profound effects on the life of your child. It’s the difference between a beautiful future and a bleak one.

Billboard in Vancouver with happy couple adventuring in nature proclaiming “We chose child free.”

We’ve expanded the human footprint to the point we’re crippling Earth’s life-supporting ecosystems. Scientific reports routinely document the destruction we’re causing. The recent WWF Living Planet Report 2020 told us we’ve lost 68% of the population of vertebrate species over the last 50 years. We’re pumping the world’s major rivers and aquifers dry, pushing our climate toward inhospitable extremes, counting down the harvests till we’re out of fertile soil, and poisoning our oceans.

It shouldn’t surprise that most are unaware of overshoot and overpopulation. We’ve brushed these topics under the rug for decades. Overpopulation is an uncomfortable subject, made more so by the myths and misassumptions that persist precisely because we don’t have intelligent conversation about the subject. We need to change that.

There’s no need to blame or target anyone. Everyone around the world has a role to play — rich or poor, young or old, Black, brown or white, in every nation. Canadians’ low birth rate doesn’t mean Canada isn’t overpopulated. The lower we get the average family size, the sooner we’ll stop eroding the planet’s ability to meet the needs of our children.

Good news: the global trend is toward smaller families. We should welcome a contracting population for a while. We should resist calls to get busy breeding or importing more taxpayers, workers and consumers. Interestingly, such calls come from CEOs, economists and politicians, not scientists — and not the children who will inherit the world we’re leaving them.

Over 20,000 leading scientists around the world issued a warning in 2017 that runaway consumption of limited resources by a rapidly growing population is crippling the Earth’s life-support systems. These scientists identified population as a “main driver” of the crisis, and recommended reducing fertility rates through education, family planning and rallying leaders behind the goal of establishing a sustainable human population.

Transit ad in Vancouver reads, “Love the Planet!”

You may or may not be surprised, we do need to shrink our overconsumptive lifestyles. We must give that significant attention. But unless we want to give up all modern conveniences, we also need to embrace smaller families. So our campaign is spotlighting the issue that gets too little attention — overpopulation. Let’s bring that conversation into the open and banish the myths and misinformation.

If today the world embraces and adopts the low reproduction rates of Germany, Japan, Spain, or Italy, the 2100 world population will be slightly above 4 billion, rather than 11 billion (the median UN projection). Our rivers will once again flow all the way to the oceans. Fisheries will return from collapse. We will have a real chance at meeting our carbon reduction goals. Other species will have a shot at survival. Our home planet will be able to heal and flourish. And every child will have a shot at living a decent life.

Dave Gardner is executive director of World Population Balance, the non-profit running the One Planet, One Child billboard campaign in Vancouver. He co-hosts the GrowthBusters podcast about sustainable living and The Overpopulation Podcast. See the ads and learn more at oneplanetonechild.org.

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Things we need to know and do to chart a sustainable course to a beautiful future. Our pursuit of perpetual growth is a dead end for civilization. It’s time for a new chapter.

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Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner

Dave Gardner co-hosts the GrowthBusters podcast about coming to terms with limits to growth. He directed the 2011 documentary, GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth.

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