A series of bus ads and billboards across Vancouver has caused quite a stir this week for suggesting people have less children to quell overpopulation.
The ads, purchased by U.S. nonprofit World Population Balance, feature slogans such as “the most loving gift you can give a child is not having another” and “conservation begins at contraception.”
They promote the idea of having one child or no children as a way to quell overpopulation, and therefore the climate crisis.
According to the group’s site, the organization was founded in 1992 to “solve the overpopulation crisis.”
WATCH: Worldwide fertility rates have fallen. Story continues below.
“Our mission is to chart a path for human civilization that – rather than causing greater misery – enables good lives on a healthy planet,” they argue.
In a new release, WPB executive director Dave Gardner said they are not “dictating anyone’s choice,” but rather, “we’re celebrating and thanking people for small-family decisions.”
It’s a movement with some high-profile endorsements. At a conference in January, famed primatologist Dr Jane Goodall claimed that human population growth is responsible for the climate crisis, and that most environmental problems wouldn’t exist if our numbers were at the levels they were 500 years ago.
The myth of overpopulation
However, overpopulation as a legitimate danger to society has largely been debunked as a myth by the scientific community. Research shows population growth is one of the least important factors in calculating climate change, especially compared to heavy industrial emitters.
Many social media users were quick to criticize the Vancouver ad campaign as playing into racist or eugenic connotations.
Research has shown that an unequal distribution of resources is actually more to blame for the climate crisis than increasing numbers of people.
“Focusing on human numbers obscures the true driver of many of our ecological woes. That is, the waste and inequality generated by modern capitalism and its focus on endless growth and profit accumulation,” Nottingham University researcher Heather Alberro wrote in The Conversation.
“Blaming human population growth – often in poorer regions – risks fuelling a racist backlash and displaces blame from the powerful industries that continue to pollute the atmosphere.”
And even then, researchers note that the world population is actually expected to decline on its own.