population, migration, and growth. The website of Gaia Watch of the UK


Announcement: The Death of John Barker

We are sorry to report that the founder of Gaia Watch John Barker has sadly passed away after a short illness, on the 19th of May 2012.

At this time the charity that John founded has been closed and the opportunity to donate has been removed from the site.

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If no one comes forward to take over the websites that John founded will be closed down towards the end of 2013.

Chris Thomson/Webmaster

Human Population Growth and Migration

have serious consequences, globally and for the United Kingdom

Population Growth, Natural Increase and Migration

Population growth is primarily caused by natural increase, that is, the excess of births over deaths. But in any particular region, migration will cause population growth when the amount of immigration exceeds the amount of emigration. And in the United Kingdom at present, migration is a greater cause of population growth than natural increase. Both population growth and migration can affect the quality of the natural environment, the likelihood of conflict, and social cohesion between ethnic groups. In our view, the significance of both population growth and migration are often underestimated by governments and non-governmental organisations.




1. The global human population is projected to grow from 6.9 billion in 2010 to 9.3 billion in 2050, an increase roughly equivalent to the combined populations of India and China in 2010 and nearly the size of the whole world population as it was in 1950! However, population growth will vary greatly between different world regions, the greatest growth being in the less developed regions of the world.
The continued movement of people from rural to urban areas (urbanization), means that all the growth of the world population during the next few decades will take place in urban areas.

2. The population of what is now the European Union increased from 403 million in 1960 to nearly 500 million in 2009. It is projected to go on increasing, reaching 521 million in 2035 and then begin to slowly decline. Since 1992 net immigration has contributed more to total population growth than natural increase, and net immigration is projected to continue to be the main cause of population growth.

3. The UK population grew massively from 17.8 million in 1831 to 46 million in 1931 and 61.8 million in 2009. It is projected to continue to grow, reaching 85.1 million in 2081, this growth between 2009 and 2081 being roughly equivalent to three times the present size of London. As with the European Union, the main cause of population growth in the UK this century has been net immigration, not natural increase; but in the years to mid-2008 and mid-2009, natural increase came to exceed net immigration. As for the future, net immigration, directly and indirectly, is projected to be the main cause of population growth.

Please do not just believe or disbelieve these statements. Read the detailed evidence given on our Population Trends page, evidence primarily taken from official sources (United Nations, European Union, the UK's Office of National Statistics) and research papers in academic journals.




1. Population growth is one of the most significant long-term causes of serious global environmental deterioration. This growth has already taken the global population beyond carrying capacity.

2. The impact of a population on the environment depends on P, population size and A, affluence or per capita consumption, and T, how current technology affects environmental impact. Hence the well known impact equation I=P×A×T.

3. Great stress had been laid, in the media, by environmental organisations and by governments on the importance of reducing environmental impact by, first, reducing consumption in 'developed' countries, where per capita consumption greatly exceeds that in 'developing' countries, and second, by improving technology. Both these are obviously important. But generally, the importance of reducing population growth has been denied, side-lined or completely ignored.

4. Immigration into a country can significantly contribute to total population growth, as it is doing in the UK. Yet governments in the industrialised countries tend to stress the benefits of such migration rather than adverse effects.

5. Continued population growth and immigration have social consequences. For a sparsely populated country, population growth can bring real benefits. But beyond a certain point continued population growth has the potential to create tensions and even conflict amongst groups within countries and between countries.

6. The United Nations and aid organisations affirm that individuals have the fundamental human right to determine the number and spacing of their children. We, on the contrary conclude that in the present crowded world where global environmental degradation has become so severe, group reproductive rights must take preference over individual or family reproductive rights since ultimately it is the survival of groups and hence of the species that matters. We also consider that global and national population size targets should be set with the aim of reducing the global population as soon as possible: see our “Companion to Key Points” article, which can also be accessed from the analysis section of the Comment and Analysis page.

7. In our view the 'playing down' of adverse effects of population growth and migration (in points 3 and 4 above) has meant that the general public in industrialised countries and elsewhere has not been educated to understand in a balanced way, the manifold effects of population change.

8. The obvious question that arises is: Why the playing down of adverse effects of population growth and migration? We believe a fundamental problem is that ideological belief has interfered with a dispassionate analysis of the environmental and social situation and subsequent policy formulation, and the presentation to the public of information on population matters. But there is much more to it than that and we refer our readers again to our article “Companion to Key Points” .



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Population Growth and Migration: GLOBAL ASPECTS

At the global level, human population growth is one significant cause of environmental problems, for two reasons.

First, Population growth has necessitated global increase in food production. More and more land has been taken over for food production to feed the growing population, to provide housing and infrastructure for that population and now, to provide land for energy crop production. And oceanic fishing has increased in intensity.

The consequences are manifold. On land there has been a move from systems of food production dependent upon fertility maintained by natural processes governed by soil organisms, to systems dependent on an exogenous source of fertility – nitrogenous fertilisers, allowing massive albeit unsustainable increases in yield per unit area. The results have been destruction of soil structure and soil organisms, depletion of essential trace elements, poisoning of the soil, and nitrogenous substances run–off into streams and rivers with harmful effects on aquatic life there and in coastal waters. In many sub–Saharan countries and some other countries, crop yields per unit area have fallen greatly because of over–intensive agricultural practices causing decrease in soil fertility, aggravated by using cow dung as fuel, dung that should have been ploughed back into the land as fertiliser. Soil erosion and salinisation of groundwater through irrigation has greatly reduced the productivity of large areas of agricultural land. Fresh water aquifers have and continue to be depleted and groundwater levels fall in major agricultural areas. Ocean fish stocks have been seriously depleted and the ecological balance of the oceanic food chains severely damaged. There has been a steady and massive decrease in the size of tropical rainforests and other natural or semi–natural ecosystems. These systems provide services to mankind, including the absorption of the climate change inducing carbon dioxide.

Second, much attention has been given to the high per capita levels of consumption and waste production in industrial countries, leading to increased climate changing emissions. But the fact is that the massive population increase in these countries has greatly increased this harmful effect. Now in developing countries, per capita consumption is generally far less than in industrialised countries. However, massive population growth there – and most future population growth will be in these countries – has at the very least still significantly increased global emissions and will continue to do so since there will be more consuming people. Further, in China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, population growth is contributing to the massive growth of the middle class population where consumption and waste production has risen towards or to the levels in industrialised countries. And the massive growth of livestock in the developing world – partly caused by human population growth, is massively increasing emissions of climate changing gases.

Population growth has in our view, already taken the human population beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Continued growth will only make things worse. While improving technology and reducing consumption could improve the situation, we think it is also imperative to take measures to slow down population growth and hasten the day when the global population shrinks.

Through its adverse effect on the environment, population growth is a significant cause of the increase in the number of environmental refugees (people who can no longer secure a livelihood in their own areas because of environmental problems such as desertification). The number of environmental refugees will be greatly inflated if, as expected, global warming causes sea levels to rise, inundating vast areas of densely populated land. In the past, abrupt climate temperature changes have occurred. If they occur in the future, agricultural systems may be unable to adapt fast enough, causing massive decreases in food production, which in turn will swell the number of environmental refugees. Environmental refugees may simply be displaced within a country, or they may by international migration move between nations or continents. Such disruptive movements can impede attempts to achieve sustainable development. And the great affluence gap between the rich and poor countries has implications for migration: it fuels the desire to emigrate from poor countries, a desire which is likely to be increased as massive population growth continues in these poor countries.

We believe population growth in crowded countries can contribute to political instability and conflict. And increased international migration, described above, increases the potential for demographically fuelled international conflict. Declining natural resources will probably increase the incidence and severity of 'resource wars'. And current conflicts in the Middle East could lead to even greater and more widespread conflict. In parenthesis, we believe these Middle East conflicts are not simply a matter of terrorism, but also of western hegemony and western desire to secure oil supplies; continued depletion of these supplies is likely to fuel such conflicts in the near future.

So population growth and migration are very important matters when considering the well being of the planet.

We would particularly like to draw attention to the following items about the global situation. Click on any item to go to it directly.

Kelvin Thomson MP. (2011). The Witches' Hats Theory of Governmen (Other Literature page)

Engelman, R. (2011). “An end to population growth: Why family planning is key to a sustainable future”. (Other Literature page)

“Is this the beginning of the end of civilisation?” A comment arising out of the unrest that developed across North Africa and beyond in February 2011 (Comment section, Comment and Analysis page)

Institution of Mechanical Engineers. “Population: one planet, too many people?” (Other Literature page)

David Pimentel et al. “Will limited Land, Water, and Energy Control Human Population Numbers in the Future?”. (Other Literature page)

C.F. Westoff. “Desired number of children: 2000–2008” (Other Literature page)

David Coleman. “Divergent patterns in the ethnic transformation of societies” (Other Literature page)

Royal Society. “The Impact of Population Growth on Tomorrow's World” (Other Literature page)

James Lovelock. “The revenge of Gaia”. Possible catastrophic climate change
(Book Reviews page)

Soil, not Oil, but what about continued human population growth?
A summary and review of Vandana Shiva's 2008 book “Soil not oil. Climate change, peak oil and food insecurity”
(Book Reviews page)

The Tragedy of the Commons - and Human Population Growth
(Book Reviews page)

Is economic growth good for the environment? An approach to this question using the Environmental Kuznets Curve Hypothesis
(Analysis section, Comment and Analysis page)

Although they have not been revised since 2002, our two essays on the subject of how many people can the earth support? still provide a useful basic introduction to this important topic (analysis section, Comment and Analysis page).

Books reviewed on our Book Reviews page and the comments on these books given in our Comment and Analysis page, show how total collapse of global human society is a very real possibility, and massive further loss of biodiversity is likely.

Population Growth and Migration: The United Kingdom

Turning from the global to the local level, we note that the United Kingdom is one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, its population, we argue, already exceeding carrying capacity.

And the latest (2008) population projection has the population, 61.8 million in 2009, rising to reach 70.9 million in 2031, an increase of 9.1 million. This increase is far greater than the size of London (7.6 million in 2007). Beyond 2031 the population is projected to continue to rise reaching 85.1 million in 2081, a massive increase of 23.3 million from 2009, an increase three times the present size of London!

As with the European Union, the main cause of population growth in the UK in recent years has been immigration, not natural increase. However in 2007-2008, a decrease in net immigration (which seems to have been caused by the recession) and a large increase in the number of births meant that, for the first time since 1999, natural increase caused slightly more of the population increase than immigration. Despite this conclusion, immigration is still currently projected, directly and indirectly, to be the main cause of future population growth.

Both UK born women and foreign born women have contributed to the recent increase in births. Factors involved here include a rise in fertility of UK born women, a large increase of foreign born women of reproductive age and the higher overall Total Fertility Rate of women born outside the UK compared with UK born women.

The growth of the UK population since the Second World War has included a massive growth of the ethnic minority population. Future population growth will continue the process already started by this ethnic minority population growth to produce a massive transformation of the ethnic composition of the UK.

Continued population growth will push the UK population even further above carrying capacity. The immigration component will, we think, increasingly threaten social cohesion. And the extent that Government relies on immigration to solve skill shortages and labour needs, will in our view, delay the development of a radical policy on participation in the workforce, adequate payment in the low–skilled job sector, further raising or abolishing of the retirement age, and pension reform, which will ultimately be required to deal effectively with employment problems including providing adequate support for the ageing population. The likely global increase in environmental and political refugees, will, in our view, maintain or increase the immigration pressure on the UK.

Clearly population growth and migration (both immigration and emigration) are very important matters for policy making in the United Kingdom.


We would particularly like to draw attention to the following items about the United Kingdom. Click on any item to go to it directly.

Comment on the New Government Draft National Planning Policy Framework: Consultation.
(Comment section, Comment and Analysis page)

An inconsistency in the Prime Minister's policies as far as immigration is concerned? The pros and cons of the entry of Turkey into the European Union.
(Comment section, Comment and Analysis page)

The UK section of the Population Trends page, last updated end of April 2010 (Population Trends page)

MigrationWatch. UK (2008). “Balanced Migration” (Other Literature page)

A comment consisting of an article from a correspondent on emigration from the UK, and our response that places emigration in the context of serious environmental changes at home and overseas that are discussed, including the warning by James Lovelock. (Comment section, Comment and Analysis page)

A comment arising from the closing of a refugee camp near Calais: “The Jungle, Sangatte, and the relentless pressure on 'developed' (industrialised) countries to accept immigrants” (Comment section, Comment and Analysis page)

Coleman, D. (2006). “Immigration and Ethnic Change in Low-Fertility Countries: A Third Demographic Transition” (Other Literature page)

An essay by Christopher Caldwell: “Fear masquerading as tolerance” (Analysis section, Comment and Analysis page)

“The Muhammad cartoons controversy – the context” (Analysis section, Comment and Analysis page, mid-May 2007)

We invite our readers to think for themselves how population growth and migration may have affected the quality of their lives.

Interaction with our readers – an invitation.
We would like to encourage readers to make use of our e–mail discussion group (the e–mail group page of our web site); it is not difficult to join in. You can then send comments and ask questions, about population growth and migration and related matters, and reply to other people who post to this group.
We are also willing in principle, to post on our Comments and Analysis page, critical comments made by our readers about anything that is written on our web site.


Have a look at our companion web site started in the summer of 2011
Gaia Population Watch

Gaia Watch. Private Limited Company registered in Cardiff, Company No. 3190710. Registered office address: 33, Bingham Park Crescent, Sheffield, South Yorkshire S11 7BH.Registered Charity (UK) No. 1060769. Charity Objectives: To advance the education of the public by conducting research into (1) the growth and movements of human populations and the relationships of these factors to all aspects of environmental health and social well-being (2) all aspects of mans impact on the environment (3) the ecology of remaining natural and semi-natural areas in the world, and to disseminate the useful results of such research.

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