Re: The World’s Population May Peak in Your Lifetime. What Happens Next?

Written by John Seager, President and CEO | Published: September 18, 2023

The New York Times published an opinion piece by the director of a new research initiative at the University of Texas in Austin, the Population Wellbeing Initiative. Nowhere in the author notes is this affiliation mentioned, nor is there mention of the $10 million grant from Elon Musk that helped get the initiative off the ground. We responded with a letter to the editor on September 18, which wasn’t published, so we are featuring it below.

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Re: The World’s Population May Peak in Your Lifetime. What Happens Next? by Dean Spears (September 18, 2023)

Dear Editor,

Given current human behavior, the world is vastly overpopulated. Here and now, we face daunting challenges, many related to the rapid population growth of the past two centuries and counting.

It’s true that we’ve seen substantial, intentional reductions in average family sizes in many places on Earth. Meanwhile, the UN reports there are 257 million women, mostly in developing countries, who don’t want to become pregnant but aren’t using contraception, overwhelmingly due to major barriers to reproductive health services.

Indeed, some countries are beginning to shrink. Doubtless, more will follow. That’s an economic and geopolitical challenge worth contemplating. But let’s remember that world population continues to grow by about 70 million annually. The impact of that growth on people and on our planet deserves continued serious attention.

Regarding population predictions beyond 2100, we should exercise caution when it comes to making assumptions about the reproductive behavior of people whose grandparents aren’t yet born.

John Seager