Member Spotlight: Chris Ennis

Written by Lee S. Polansky, Senior Director of Executive Initiatives and Special Projects | Interview by Sarah Ikemoto, Development Manager | Published: September 19, 2022

portrait of Christopher Ennis
Christopher Ennis

Chris Ennis joined Population Connection in 1999 and has been a loyal member of our President’s Circle since 2016. With a doctorate in math from UC Berkeley, he taught math (of course), physics, and engineering at the college and community college level for the majority of his career. He’s now retired and agreed to chat with us about his interest in population issues and his long involvement with ZPG and Population Connection.

Chris grew up in California and lived in Berkeley for most of the 1970s. He earned his undergraduate degree at UCLA, where he met his wife on the first day of college. They got married right after they graduated. Not surprisingly, the two Ennis sons are also very smart; one has a PhD in physics, and the other went to seminary school.

While Chris is retired, he’s still very busy. He stays active and runs every day, saying that running “keeps me flexible and keeps my energy level up.” He stays current with his field, researching mathematical problems in geometric probability, and has published several of his findings. He also does carpentry and enjoys working in his shop.

Chris told us he has thought about population and has known about ZPG ever since high school. Like many of our members, Chris first heard about Zero Population Growth from the book The Population Bomb. Although he claims he wasn’t a “big reader,” he was serious enough about population issues to read Paul and Anne Ehrlich’s seminal book. He told us that The Population Bomb “made an impression on me early on,” and he was taken with the arguments the authors made.

He explains that his “big, social-political issue is climate change” and asserts that he’s “always seen that the population question—population growth and everything else—is very strongly connected to climate change.” As an educator, Chris is especially impressed by Population Connection’s emphasis on education and the Population Education program, with its “good arguments to make the lives of people all over the world better.”

He admires that Population Connection demonstrates that “educating the world’s women and children, domestically and globally, is a good way to keep population in check.” In fact, while still teaching, Chris used population examples in his dynamical systems course, where “we looked at population growth and how it’s a dynamical system, even though we were more theoretical … we looked at wolves and bears on islands and the population dynamics between predator-prey … and we used mathematical statistics to show how populations grow and fall.”

Chris sums up his support for Population Connection thusly: “I think you’re a great organization, and you do a good job of calling attention to the fact that population growth is a fundamental driver of so many of the problems we face as a society.” He tells us that he once “noticed my son reading Population Connection magazine, and he mentioned that the magazine connected population growth to climate change and a lot of other problems. He said, ‘population is the root problem of so many things.’ You made an impression on my son, and I’m a proud supporter of your work.”

I think you’re a great organization, and you do a good job of calling attention to the fact that population growth is a fundamental driver of so many of the problems we face as a society.