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Sustainable Society:  A society that balances the environment, other life forms, and human interactions over an indefinite time period.







U.S. Sustainable Population Policy Project

Summary and Request for Co-sponsorship

June 1, 1999


The time has come to speak more openly of a population policy. The goal of an optimal population will require addressing, for the first time, the full range of processes that lock together the economy and the environment, the national interest and the global commons, the welfare of the present generation with that of future generations. The matter should be aired not only in think tanks but in public debate.
E.O. Wilson, "The Diversity of Life". p. 329

Project Focus

A multi-phase project leading to a heightened public awareness of U.S. population issues and supporting the development of an official population policy for the United States, so that all segments of our society achieve a better understanding of the long term impact of population growth on environmental and economic sustainability.


The fundamental threat to the health of the planet posed by overpopulation has been detailed by international scientists and policy makers for many years, most notably during the last twenty-five. A number of countries have instituted policies intended to help stabilize their respective populations. Unfortunately, the United States is not one of these countries.

Despite efforts begun in 1970, with the Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, and participation in three international population conferences, the United States has failed to adopt an official policy identifying population stabilization as a national goal. The United States has grown to the third most populated country in the world, and continues to increase by nearly 3 million people each year. Because of this growth, combined with its high level of consumption, the U.S. population continues to exert ever-higher tolls on the world's environment.

In addition, there has been a significant lack of communication between biological scientists--who study the environmental effects of population growth —and social and political scientists, the media, and religious leaders— who more directly impact public opinion.

In an effort to address these issues, we propose a three-year interdisciplinary project that will combine national polling and focus groups, a working conference of experts, national educational town meetings, a national population policy conference and follow-up activities to develop and implement a coherent, fair U.S. population policy. The project will produce specific population policy goals by incorporating current public opinion data with the recommendations of previous national and international commissions and conferences. The project will seek to incorporate the views of as broad a range of individuals and organizations as possible, including (but not limited to) environmentalists, family planning and reproductive health organizations, scientists, civic groups, religious leaders, educators, minorities, social justice groups, corporations, and the media.


Despite the fact that population growth in the U.S. has serious domestic and international ramifications, there has been relatively little public discussion of the issue in this country. Recent research indicates that there is a serious lack of knowledge among citizens of the United States about population issues, and an even more limited comprehension of the link between population growth and environmental degradation. Nevertheless, according to a February 1996 Roper Poll, the majority of Americans would like to see either stabilization or reduction of U.S. population levels.

These facts speak strongly for the need for a U.S. population project of the nature outlined in this proposal. Unless we reassess our rate of growth and patterns of development, our children and future generations face the specter of a degraded environment, increased incidence of disease and poverty, less freedom in their choices of food and recreation, and a steadily declining standard of living. A national conversation on population is of paramount importance.


The proposed ramifications of continued population growth in the United States suggest a profound need for developing and implementing a national, coherent, and fair population policy. In an effort to stimulate such an initiative, this project will focus on U.S. issues, including formulation of a plan to establish and implement a U.S. population policy in this nation, characterized by fairness and feasibility. These recommendations would be drawn in part from the 1972 Commission on Population Growth and the American Future (Rockefeller Commission), the 1992 United Nations Convention on Environment & Development (Rio Conference), the 1994 Programme of Action of the International Conference and Population and Development (Cairo Conference) and the 1995 recommendation of the President's Council on Sustainable Development.

The project will consist of five phases:

  1. Focus Groups and Participant Organization Recommendations
  2. Pre-conference Working Sessions
  3. National Education Town Meetings
  4. National Conference
  5. Outreach and Publications

This project is unique. Rather than sponsoring a one-time event, the goal is to establish an ongoing dialogue and series of working relationships among an interdisciplinary group of participants.



Your organization is invited to join the growing list of USS3P co-sponsors. Co-sponsorship will help solidify support and increase our outreach to the grassroots level in a timely and effective manner. Project co-sponsors support the basic concepts outlined in the planning document and endorse the development of a domestic population policy that addresses the issues of family planning and reproductive health, environment, consumption, and immigration. Co-sponsoring organizations may be involved throughout the process, beginning with the community meetings, focus groups and initial recommendation phase, and continuing through the town meetings, the full conference, and the implementation of the conference recommendations. There is no attempt to predetermine what a policy should be. The project addresses all population issues as items to be discussed.

Co-sponsorship does not imply any financial obligation, nor agreement with the positions of other co-sponsors, but indicates a willingness to participate in an open, democratic dialogue on national population and sustainability issues. Many cosponsors have different views on how to solve this all-encompassing problem of population growth and environmental degradation. USS3P provides a forum to discuss these views, as well as an opportunity to put aside differences in order to accomplish a stabilized population. There is no requirement for cosponsors, except to offer their support, although any publicity or financial support is gratefully accepted.


The project was formed in early 1996 by Dr. Doug LaFollette, Wisconsin Secretary of State, an environmental supporter since the '70's, assisting Gaylord Nelson in organizing the first Earth Day, soon joined by Prof. David Pimentel, well-known ecologist at Cornell University. The USS3P executive committee* includes Carole Wilmoth, National Audubon Society, Population & Habitat Campaign; Marilyn Hempel, Dir., Population Coalition of the Leagues of Women Voters; Beth Curry Thomas, Founder, Planned Parenthood of Hilton Head, SC; Sonny Fox, Sr. VP, Population Communications International; Fred Meyerson, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, and Planned Parenthood of CT; Jane De Lung, Dir., Population Resource Center, Princeton; and Bill Ryerson, President, Population Media Center who joined the team in March 1998.

The major authors of the Planning Document were: David Pimentel, Doug LaFollette, Mark Nowak (former Director of Population-Environment Balance), Sonny Fox, and Fred Meyerson. Mark is inactive at this time. The plan continues to evolve as the committee gains more insight into the issue.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this important national project.


There is a longer planning document of October '98 (last revision) which outlines the problem as well as the project in more detail. This document may be obtained by sending us a request by email with your name, organization (if any) and postal mailing address.

Comments on the project are appreciated.

Donations to USS3P are tax deductible and may be sent to Prof. David Pimentel, Cornell University, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Ithaca, NY 14853-0901.

Carole Wilmoth, Executive Committee
U.S. Sustainable Population Policy Project

* All titles used for ID purposes only --does not imply endorsement by any organization or entity.

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