Whatever Happened to “ZPG?”

Written by Marian Starkey | Published: April 7, 2017

We regularly hear from our members and supporters that they liked our old name—Zero Population Growth (ZPG) better. It felt more descriptive of our mission, was more action-oriented, and more urgent. Don’t fix what ain’t broke, right?

Well, the truth is, what started out as an effective name DID start to seem “broken” after the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, which put population issues into a different perspective—one more focused on justice, human rights, and voluntarism.

Stabilizing the Population at a Sustainable Level

Many people and institutions started experiencing a negative connotation with our name during that time. People who didn’t have a firm grasp on demographic terms thought Zero Population Growth meant that we were advocating for zero people. Of course, that was never the case—the mission has always been to stabilize the size of the population at a level that will ensure the planet can support people and wildlife for many generations to come.

Still, schools stopped welcoming our Population Education program, the media avoided using us as a helpful resource, and members of Congress were wary of meeting with us and our members because we sounded to them like an extremist group. Basically, the heyday of the ZPG movement that started in the 1960s had ended, and we were finding it more difficult to do our important work with a name that no longer resonated with activists, lawmakers, and educators

The name Population Connection, was officially adopted in 2002. Our mission never changed, and our new name reopened doors for us — we are able to get meetings on Capitol Hill, get our materials into public schools, and engage younger members and supporters who were not alive yet when “ZPG” was a popular rally cry.

A Voice for Population Advocacy

Our mission is to be a powerful voice for population issues, regardless of our name. Population Connection better conveys the full breadth of our education and advocacy work, and makes it easier for our staff, members, and nationwide grassroots activists to be effective advocates for global population stabilization.

We still strive through our education and advocacy to achieve zero population growth, and we’ve found that with the new name we’re better equipped to do that.

Fun fact: The “new name” was actually chosen based on extensive focus group research with our members; in effect, they are the ones who chose the new name. (As an aside, most of the Population Connection staff were hired after the name change; in fact, only four program staff started working here before the name change in 2002. For most of us who work here now, we’ve only known the organization as Population Connection.)