The world’s human population passed 7 billion in 2011 (up from 2.5 billion in 1950). The exponential increase in the population is already placing serious pressures on the earth’s resources. We live on a finite planet (a closed system) where resources like clean air, drinking water and food are not limitless.

Sir David Attenborough had made a one hour documentary calling for a three part approach to repairing the planet including reducing our population.

Swedish academic Han Rosling, has made this 3 minute film for The Guardian giving a basic introduction to the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. His approach takes an equity focus rather than explaining how human populations have put the planet in peril.

Several high profile Australians have helped to focus the population debate:

  • Businessman, Dick Smith (through his book and film called ‘Population Puzzle‘);
  • Professor Ian Lowe through his many books such as ‘Bigger or Better’, environmental work and this interview on the ABC in November 2012 (which starts half way through);
  • Kelvin Thomson, was an Australian politician who produced a 14 point plan for Australia’s population (2009).Although this is a complex and sensitive topic requiring a human-rights based approach, organisations and individuals can play a role in the sustainable population debate by engaging with their peers, media outlets, governments, researchers and non-profit organisations.

    One non-profit organisation, Sustainable Population Australia is a credible source of information and policy positions on this topic, with a social justice slant. Patrons include Ian Lowe, Tim Flannery and others.

    International reliable sources of information include the United Nations Population Division and the United Nations Population Fund which focuses on strategies in areas like:

    • Family planning
    • Reproductive health/rights
    • Gender equality
    • Human rights
    • Safe motherhood
    • HIV/Aids
    • Essential supplies
    • Emergencies
    • Female mutilation

    More audio and film resources on population

    This March 2008 episode of the ABC’s Background Briefing about Australia baby boom helped to kick start a renewed interest in population policy.

    David Attenborough has produced many BBC nature documentaries which have noted the problems of overpopulation. In particular, ‘The State of the Planet’ (2004) is recommended.

    Renowned authors such as Jared Diamond, author of ‘Collapse’ and his 5 point plan for identifying societies at risk of collapse – Diamond is seen here presenting an 18 minute TED Talk.