8 Billion and Counting ...
From Stephanie Feldstein, Population and Sustainability Program Director
This week world population surpassed 8 billion people. And it’s been only 11 years since we hit the 7-billion mark. Over the past decade, the climate and extinction crises have accelerated. Earth Overshoot Day — the day when humanity uses up the resources the planet can replenish in a year — keeps falling earlier and earlier in the calendar.
While the rate of population growth has slowed, the problem is far from solved. As Center campaigner Kelley Dennings has put it, “Until all people are empowered with access to reproductive healthcare and can make the choice about when or if to have children, we will struggle to create a world where all life on Earth can thrive.”
Read on for more about our response to reaching 8 billion and how we’re advocating for a more sustainable world this holiday season.
The Center’s new Planet of 8 Billion website highlights 10 of the countless species threatened by human population growth — including monarch butterflies, Florida panthers and loggerhead sea turtles. Learn about solutions to save them and share their stories.
In the News: 8 Billion and the Extinction Crisis
With world population in the spotlight, the media is paying attention to how population growth affects the environment. Dozens of articles around the world have covered how more people on the planet puts more pressure on nature. Others went even more in-depth, pointing out the environmental harms, global challenges and inequality related to population growth. Earlier this week I was also interviewed about what 8 billion people means for the planet on This Green Earth, an NPR affiliate radio show. And you can listen to a conversation with me and other population advocates in Population Media Center’s podcast, Women Leaders Working on Population Growth.
Here’s one thing you can do: Add your voice to the conversation by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about why we need to keep population in the news.
Endangered Species Condoms Sent to UN
The United Nations was responsible for pinpointing Nov. 15 as the day that world population would reach 8 billion. But they also cautioned against alarm, saying that 8 billion represents “infinite possibilities.” The problem is: We only have one planet, and it’s finite.
The UN said we need to focus on human rights — and that’s true. But it dismissed the reality that population growth puts enormous pressure on biodiversity and the planet, which in turn threatens clean air, safe water and a healthy environment. So we sent over some Endangered Species Condoms as a reminder not to leave biodiversity out of the population conversation.
Here’s one thing you can do: Keep this conversation going with your friends and family all year long by giving the gift of Endangered Species Condoms. With a monthly donation to our Condom of the Month Club, you — or your gift recipient — will get a colorful package of the condoms every month. Donate now to sign up.
How to Give Greener Gifts
Next weekend the annual holiday shopping frenzy will begin. Finding the perfect gifts can be stressful — and not just for you and your bank account. From plastic toys and wooly Christmas sweaters to wrapping paper and unwanted presents, every aspect of holiday gift-giving comes with an environmental cost.
As Center organizer Sarah Baillie writes, “Holiday gift exchanges aren’t the root cause of all our environmental crises, but they’re a major symptom of the larger consumer culture that helps drive habitat destruction, pollution and biodiversity loss.” Luckily, that doesn’t mean you have to be a Grinch about gifts. Read Sarah’s tips for how to choose gifts that tread lighter on the planet.
Here’s one thing you can do: Help us shape the future of sustainable holidays by filling out this short survey about winter holiday traditions.
Take Action for Climate-Friendly School Food
Sweater season is the perfect time to talk about wool. The wool industry presents itself as an eco-friendly choice, but the reality isn’t quite so green. Wool production is responsible for habitat destruction, greenhouse gas emissions, and threats to biodiversity. It also uses an enormous amount of water and chemicals. Scouring one batch of wool to remove dirt, debris and grease produces wastewater comparable to sewage from a town of 30,000 people. I recently joined the In Tune To Nature podcast to talk about the problem with wool and how fashion can be safer for the environment.
Here’s one thing you can do: Remember that the most eco-friendly clothes are the ones you already own. Check out our tips for how you can make fashion more sustainable and learn more about the benefits of secondhand shopping.
Wildlife Spotlight: Austin Blind Salamander
Adapted to total darkness, Austin blind salamanders have only spots where their eyes would be. They live in the of subterranean caves below Barton Springs in Austin, Texas. Since they spend their whole lives well out of human sight, scientists know very little about these animals.
Unfortunately their underground existence doesn’t protect them from human population pressure: Agricultural fertilizers and pesticides are polluting their habitat, while drought and groundwater pumping for Austin’s growing population are drying it up.
Following a landmark settlement between the Center and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in 2013 Austin blind salamanders and Jollyville Plateau salamanders gained Endangered Species Act protection and 4,400 acres of critical habitat. Even with these protections, the future of the species depends on Austin reducing the impact of its growth on land and water sources.