News from the Population Working Group

Considering Limits to Human Population Size

THE POPULATION WORKING GROUP of Quaker Earthcare Witness recently published a new booklet, “Considering Limits to Human Population Size.” The publication grew out of a concern raised almost a year ago when the Working Group was updating its general population trifold: “but you have not considered ecological limits to population.” Since that was too big a topic to include in that already full trifold, the Population Working Group undertook to write a separate trifold. A sub-committee began working on it, but soon realized the topic was too big for a trifold, so it is a 12-page booklet.

The “Considering Limits to Human Population Size” booklet cites growing evidence that the maximum sustainable human population size on Earth ranges between 1.5 and 3.5 billion persons, while the population of the Earth is already 7.7 billion today. The booklet then raises several questions. Does this mean that the human population is in overshoot already? What does historical research tell us about human behavior under overshoot conditions? What mechanisms can be used to bring the human population back to a sustainable size?

The booklet addresses how a population of closer to three billion worldwide can be reached through the widespread acceptance of a family norm below two children per family for several generations. This would avoid a population crash involving major increases in mortality due to famine, pestilence, and war. The booklet concludes that “[a]dapting to a world with average families having fewer than two children for several generations will be very difficult personally, communally, and spiritually, but no more difficult than living in a world with increased premature deaths of billions of people suffering famine, poverty, disease, and violence.”

The three main authors, Stan Becker, Roy Treadway, and Judy Lumb worked over eight months going through 48 versions to consider various angles and ramifications. We appreciate the suggestions provided by members of the Population Working Group and the Publications Committee of Quaker Earthcare Witness. Thanks to everyone, this booklet is now approved for distribution. You can download your copy at: and visit for more resources.

Clearness Committee on Kids?

The Population Working Group of QEW is aware that some young adults are considering not having children for the sake of the planet. We wonder how we can be supportive of whatever reproductive choices young adult Friends are making.

Chesapeake Quarterly Meeting approved a minute which includes the statement: 

“...Meetings should make known the availability of clearness committees for couples who are considering additions to their family and want support in making a responsible decision...”(6/1992). 

 I have served on one clearness committee for adoption and one for abortion, but it would be difficult to learn if/how this recommendation has been implemented in other Monthly Meetings. More generally, we wonder if Friends elsewhere are dealing with this concern. 

If Friends have experiences or insights to share in this regard, could you please send them to the Population Working Group c/o Hayley Hathaway

Stan Becker, Population Working Group