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The Population Debate Revisited

The explosion of human numbers after World War Two triggered a passionate “population debate.” Did population growth portend a catastrophic future, or were such fears misguided? Then, the Green Revolution quelled the specter of famine, declining fertility rates tempered population growth, and the topic became rather taboo in policy circles. The old neo-Malthusian obsession with population now seems simplistic, but population remains an important contributing factor to ecological overshoot.

The forum revisits this “elephant in the room.” Environmental scholar Ian Lowe’s opening essay urges returning population to the policy foreground. Three panels join the debate: the first fleshes out the case for action, the second responds that population is a dangerous distraction, and the third dives into the issue’s vexing complexities.

Featuring opening reflections and a response from Ian Lowe.

Panel 1: The Case for Action, featuring Eileen Crist, Herman Daly, John de Graaf, Céline Delacroix, Riane Eisler, Aaron Karp, David Korten, Jane O’Sullivan, William Rees, and David Samways.

Panel 2: Why It’s a Distraction, featuring Manisha Anantharaman, Guy Dauncey, Robert Fletcher, Wendy Harcourt, Betsy Hartmann, Lyla Mehta, Brian Murphy, and Peter Sterling and Michael Platt.

Panel 3: Questions and Complexities, featuring Biko Agozino, Gwendolyn Hallsmith, Giorgos Kallis, Alexander Lautensach, Gustave Massiah, Heikki Patomäki, Gus Speth, and Martha Van Der Bly.