NPG Forum Revisits Links between Sustainability and Population Growth

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For over 50 years, expert Dr. Albert Bartlett’s work connected environmental decline and overpopulation.

The inevitable and unavoidable conclusion is that if we want to stop the increasing damage to the global environment... we must stop population growth.

Following the January 1st launch of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Negative Population Growth (NPG) will release a new Forum paper today. The piece includes analysis of today’s commonly used term “sustainability,” finding: “The introduction of the word ‘sustainable’ provided comfort and reassurance to those who may have momentarily wondered if possibly there were limits. …In the manner of Alice in Wonderland, and without regard for accuracy or consistency, ‘sustainability’ seems to have been redefined flexibly to suit a variety of wishes and conveniences.”

In Reflections on Sustainability, Population Growth, and the Environment, the late Dr. Albert A. Bartlett studied the origin and meaning of “sustainability,” as well as the dangerous and unforeseen effects of the term’s motley uses. A Professor Emeritus in Nuclear Physics at University of Colorado at Boulder, Dr. Bartlett dedicated much of his life’s work to fulfilling requests for his celebrated lecture “Arithmetic, Population and Energy: Sustainability 101" – which he gave 1,742 times throughout the world. Dr. Bartlett used his extensive scientific background to demonstrate that exponential growth of human populations – and the resulting consumption of natural resources – is, by definition, unsustainable. He notes: “In some cases the term [“sustainability”] may be used mindlessly (or possibly with the intent to deceive) in order to try to shed a favorable light on continuing activities that may or may not be capable of continuing for long periods of time.”

The newly-edited paper highlights the dangerous consequences of pro-growth policies. Bartlett notes: “One should be struck by the… call for ‘economic growth’ that is ‘sustainable.’ One has to ask if it is possible to have an increase in economic activity (growth) without having increases in the rates of consumption of non-renewable resources. …These two concepts of ‘growth’ and ‘sustainability’ are in conflict with one another….” While economic and population growth are often erroneously hailed as major victories by communities around the world, the NPG Forum paper highlights the inevitable impact of such growth. “The inevitable and unavoidable conclusion is that if we want to stop the increasing damage to the global environment, as a minimum, we must stop population growth.”

NPG President Don Mann had strong praise for the new work, stating: “Bartlett expertly highlights the dangerous reality of our nation’s present expansionist policies. Today’s near worship of economic and population growth have reached dangerous levels, yet this approach no longer serves the best interests of Americans.” Mann added: “NPG has long held that U.S. population growth is greatly driven by present economic and immigration policies – and our everyday crises are also growing as a result. We must work now to slow, halt, and eventually reverse our population growth – or future generations will ultimately pay the price for our failure to act. To preserve a livable America, we must greatly reduce our population size until it reaches a much smaller, truly sustainable level.”

Bartlett concludes: “The challenge of making the transition to a sustainable society is enormous, in part because of a major global effort to keep people from recognizing the centrality of population growth to the enormous problems of the U.S. and the world. ...On the national scale, we can hope for leaders who will recognize that population growth is the major problem in the U.S. and who will initiate a national dialog on the problem.”


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 Proposed National 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 (

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