Re: Ending growth won't save the planet

Written by Olivia Nater | Published: June 24, 2024

The Washington Post editorial board recently published a flawed and problematic article arguing in favor of infinite growth. We sent a letter in response, which was not published, so we are featuring it here.

We encourage all our members and supporters to make their voices heard! See our media guide for advice on how to do that.

Dear Editorial Board,

It was disappointing to see you buy into the fantasy of infinite growth in “Ending growth won’t save the planet.” You state that “ingenuity and innovation have repeatedly empowered humanity to overcome ecological constraints” — indeed, but at what cost? All our environmental crises are a result of repeatedly pushing our planet beyond its sustainable limits. Thankfully, the Green Revolution helped avert mass starvation, but modern agriculture is wrecking the planet. Food systems are responsible for around a third of all emissions, and are leading drivers of deforestation, biodiversity loss, and pollution.

Not to mention that the number of people suffering from hunger and food insecurity has been increasing again since 2015 — Norman Borlaug himself warned that if we fail to end population growth, “the success of the Green Revolution will be ephemeral only.”

You argue that the only solution is scaling up “green” energy infrastructure and new technologies, but ignore that these too come with considerable environmental (and humanitarian) costs. You also forget that the climate crisis is just one of many crises that all result from one root problem: ecological overshoot. Expanding renewable energy will do nothing to end natural resource depletion or the extinction crisis, for example.

Additionally, your article conflates population and consumption growth. Our impact on the planet is a product of how many of us there are and how much each of us consumes (while technology can have amplifying or abating effects). You dismiss the notion of cutting overconsumption in wealthy nations because global CO2 emissions would continue to rise. The key is reducing rich countries’ consumption rates alongside ending global population growth by removing all barriers to girls’ education and family planning. Technological innovation is important, but it has no chance of ending overshoot if we fail to kick our growth addiction.

A more equal, sustainable world would be within reach if only more people accepted that infinite growth on a finite planet is a dangerous fantasy.


Olivia Nater
Communications Manager
Population Connection