New NPG Paper Sees Present Global Affluence as Brief and Nonrenewable

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Analysis finds much of the world’s high standard of living is based on the consumption of nonrenewable natural resources – and this period of global affluence will not last much longer.

No amount of ingenuity will put more resources into the ground. Something cannot be made from nothing.

After Pope Francis delivered a scathing encyclical on June 18, world debate surrounding climate change has become reignited. In response to the renewed public interest in this critical matter, Negative Population Growth (NPG) will release a new Forum paper on July 7 highlighting the links between population growth, natural resource consumption, and the likelihood of rapidly austere global living conditions. Unfortunately for climate change deniers, the paper reaches the same conclusion noted by Pope Francis: “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain.”

In the new publication, veteran NPG commentator Walter Youngquist draws on lengthy professional experience as a petroleum geologist to predict a grim future for the world’s current standard of living. Characteristically counter-cultural, Youngquist’s essay rejects the prevalent conviction that perpetual growth and ever-rising prosperity are permanent entitlements. Even his title – A Geomoment of Affluence Between Two Austere Eras – strikes a chord among those concerned with the future of our world and its resources.

He explains: “We have plundered the planet to provide for little more than three centuries of continually rising physical living standards based almost entirely on nonrenewable resources. As such this trend is unsustainable, a fact that will become apparent before the end of this century.” Incorporating his own vast experience, Youngquist expands upon the troublesome conclusions reached by other leading experts and NPG contributors: Leon Kolankiewicz on the media’s absurd denial of resource scarcity, David Montgomery on the world’s coming food security crisis, Chris Clugston on our rapidly-diminishing non-renewable resources (NNRs), and former NPG advisor Lindsey Grant on the now-peaking production of fossil fuels.

Youngquist notes: “The replacement of the high density fossil fuels, oil, natural gas, and coal, will be extremely difficult, for they are energy sources unequaled by any other.” His analysis goes beyond just oil supply, to include other factors that are essential to America’s ever-growing energy demands – minerals such as copper, and the shrinking Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) for energy sources around the world. He warns: “No amount of ingenuity will put more resources into the ground. Something cannot be made from nothing.”

Echoing NPG, Youngquist has long advocated prompt reduction of population to an ecologically-sustainable size and a transition to a no-growth, steady-state economy. He finds that if present trends in consumption and growth persist, reduction of human population may come about by a harsher method: “…a road of continued austerity with no apparent end in sight. Youngquist explains: “…There is no precedent for reducing populations and changing economies to fit a paradigm of fewer people living on renewable resources. However, this transition is inevitable. All human activities will eventually have to operate within the limits imposed by use of renewable natural resources.”

NPG President Donald Mann had strong praise for Youngquist’s work, noting: “While most Americans have embraced the idea of ‘green’ and ‘low-consumption’ lifestyles, the vast majority still have not recognized the root cause of the problems we face. At over 321 million people, the United States is unsustainably overpopulated – and we are continuing to grow by an average of roughly 2.5 million people per year. Even with reductions and re-usage programs, there are simply more consumers than there are resources.” He added: “By distributing Youngquist’s perceptive work, NPG hopes this alarming reality will reach more of our nation’s citizens and elected officials: we must slow, halt, and eventually reverse U.S. population growth until we reach a much smaller, truly sustainable level.”


Founded in 1972, NPG is a national nonprofit membership organization dedicated to educating the American public and political leaders regarding the damaging effects of population growth. We believe that our nation is already vastly overpopulated in terms of the long-range carrying capacity of its resources and environment. NPG advocates the adoption of its 10 Principles for a Responsible U.S. Population Policy, with the goal of eventually stabilizing U.S. population at a sustainable level – far lower than today’s. We do not simply identify the problems – we propose solutions. For more information, visit our website at

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