Whatever Happened to “ZPG?”

We regularly hear from our members and supporters that they liked our old name—Zero Population Growth (ZPG) better. It felt more descriptive of our mission, was more action-oriented, and more urgent. Don’t fix what ain’t broke, right?

Well, the truth is, what started out as an effective name DID start to seem “broken” after the landmark International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, which put population issues into a different perspective—one more focused on justice, human rights, and voluntarism.

Stabilizing the Population At A Sustainable Level

Many people and institutions started experiencing a negative connotation with our name during that time. People who didn’t have a firm grasp on demographic terms thought Zero Population Growth meant that we were advocating for zero people. Of course, that was never the case—the mission has always been to stabilize the size of the population at a level that will ensure the planet can support people and wildlife for many generations to come.

Still, schools stopped welcoming our Population Education program, the media avoided using us as a helpful resource, and members of Congress were wary of meeting with us and our members because we sounded to them like an extremist group. Basically, the heyday of the ZPG movement that started in the 1960s had ended, and we were finding it more difficult to do our important work with a name that no longer resonated with activists, lawmakers, and educators

The name Population Connection, was officially adopted in 2002. Our mission never changed, and our new name reopened doors for us — we are able to get meetings on Capitol Hill, get our materials into public schools, and engage younger members and supporters who were not alive yet when “ZPG” was a popular rally cry.

A Voice for Population Advocacy

Our mission is to be a powerful voice for population issues, regardless of our name. Population Connection better conveys the full breadth of our education and advocacy work, and makes it easier for our staff, members, and nationwide grassroots activists to be effective advocates for global population stabilization.

We still strive through our education and advocacy to achieve zero population growth, and we’ve found that with the new name we’re better equipped to do that.

Fun fact: The “new name” was actually chosen based on extensive focus group research with our members; in effect, they are the ones who chose the new name. (As an aside, most of the Population Connection staff were hired after the name change; in fact, only four program staff started working here before the name change in 2002. For most of us who work here now, we’ve only known the organization as Population Connection.)

49 thoughts on “Whatever Happened to “ZPG?”

  1. I was a member in the 70’s and 80’s. Then you disappeared. I’m glad you are out there educating again. I think educating people in all countries is good. But advocating abortion in some countries could lead to accusations of racism and genocide.

    I spent years teaching biology in public schools. And advocating for environmental balance which is crucial to understanding our place in Nature. Too many people do not understand that they are a part of Nature. You guys should have the budget that the Mars landing spends–instead of training peoples minds to escape a ruined Earth. Good Luck!

    • No one wants to “advocate” for abortion; there are too many sensationalists looking for targets. Abortion needs to be part of a whole array of birth control and family planning, to be used when failed pregnancy prevention, rape, or misinformation result in pregnancy in difficult situations that cannot be resolved any other way. But no woman needs to be pregnant against her will, and her choice in the matter is paramount.

  2. I found your magazine in the lobby of my health club. Had no idea your organization existed. It’s great to know that there are people like-minded out there. It seems that every major problem (war, famine, fighting, climate, pollution hate….) has a single denominator: too many humans living too closely. Driving a Prius and recycling won’t solve any of this 😉

    To be honest, i don’t think we humans will solve the problems in time. Corporations increasingly reward employees for creating more of themselves with special perks, time off. The Earth will decline at an increasing rate in the next 100 years. However, it’s nice to know some good folks like you are concerned.


  3. i haven’t read your whole site…but now all the time we are asking ourselves, we can only “save the planet” by reducing the human population..(global warming, diminishing habitat, etc.)
    but we wondered , what happened to ZPG? why is it never mentioned anymore? why do all the environmental organizations shy away from the question of over-population? (In case you haven’t guessed, we are in our late ’60s.). Now i see on your website, “what happened.” But we want to see a lot more in the media about this — as unpopular as it might be.

  4. Slowing and eventually reversing the rampant rise of the human population on this planet is the only thing that will keep all life from extinction. This is very, very important. Why are you so silent?

  5. During a 1971 (I think) summer study of M.A.C.O.S., Man: A Course of Study, I was introduced to ZPG. I whole heartedly embraced that idea.
    Too many critters in too little land with too little resources = Trouble with a capital T.
    This was my childbearing years, at least a little before them: I told my husband, ZPG makes sense to me. Let’s plan on having two children of our own and then if we want more we can foster/adopt.
    Nonsense, he said, I want a lot of kids. We argued often, long, loud, and then our friends became involved. All highly educated scientists, they began to support my way of thinking. We did have our two daughters, we did foster many teenagers.
    We are now not together.

  6. I AM so adamate about this subject…I knwo it is impossible to talk to the general public about this “elephant in the dinning room”. How can people not see this as a problem? Its beyond me. People have replaced a religious belief of God and transfered it to humans…It is quite like the myth about Icarus. Do thy not see the immense inequalities of life that we have caused in the world population? I am just so fed up with the stupidity of the general public and their “god given right ” to have as many babies as they want…no matter the consequences…

  7. I am so saddened by your name change. From a marketing perspective, Population Connection means little. If I didn’t know already it would be ummemorable and confusing.
    Please consider returning to something closer to ZPG with the help of a savvy marketer. This is too important to ignore.

    • Vanessa Weber, thank you & ditto. ‘Population Education’ even sounds better than ‘Population Connection’ (connection to what?) which has absolutely no relevance to anything, let alone the issue of unchecked, unrestrained, limitless human population growth.

    • I think you are correct. Both ZPG (Zero Population Growth) and Population Connection have negatives associated with them. Who ever favored abortion, forced sterilization and other things at your organization caused many of your problems. But at this point we actually need to reduce the world population via less controversial means at our disposal. That is the message that you need to impart. What prompted me to look at this was the shellfish problem in Chesapeake Bay that Rowan Lockwood at William and Mary was studying. Right now the FSA (formerly the USA) has a President who wants to eliminate as many pollution controls as possible. That is yet another battle. But if you asked me what “Population Connection” has to do with stopping the population explosion (which is still what we are having) I would give you a blank stare.

    • It was a huge disappointment to visit zeropopulationgrowth.org with my 10-year-old son and find eye-opening content replaced by lukewarm pandering. He put it well when he said, “Seems like they’d rather be popular than right.”
      So sad that people at ZPG lacked the backbone to continue driving the difficult but necessary conversation around overpopulation in a forceful way. I can only keep my checkbook closed and hope a new organization with a greater commitment to its mission will soon fill the void.

      • Your son sounds like a bright child, and it’s wonderful that you are exposing him to big ideas such as population growth and its attending challenges.

        Population Connection aims to engage Americans in important — and often difficult — conversations about the connections between population growth, human rights, social justice, and the environment. The more people we can engage, the more impactful we are in changing individuals’ childbearing, consumption, and voting behaviors.

        We believe that working from a human rights perspective is the “right” way to address this issue. There are other groups that take a more authoritative stance — you might find that you align more closely with them.

  8. Zero Population Growth is still viable if you educate as to what that means. Please know you would have more support from those of
    us who knew this from its inception. That would be the 70 and 80 year olds. This is a serious breach not to have this in the public awareness.
    PEW has done a lot of research on the various populations and the expectations of which countries will exc eed the balance of birth, fertility
    and death into the 2050’s. https://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/

    • If there is no zero population growth organization in Ireland why don’t you ask them if they mind if you start a chapter in Ireland or for all of the British Isles ? It might be good if you were somebody else would do that there.

  9. It hardly matters now. I thought in the mid 1970’s we may have had a chance, but then we elected a true idiot that started the United States on a backwards path to where superstition and religion would bloom. And all the major religions instead of putting forth a sane view of people having children is the way god wants us to live. The so called “greatest generation’ did nothing to help the situation, instead of using the mass media to teach it used it only to brainwash the baby boom generation that they should buy som 400 hp gas guzzling car. Anyone my age can propably remember the rollouts of new Chevy advertising on Bonanza. They knew the dangers of global warming (at least the scientists) and did nothing to help alleviate the problems. Now we are still expanding at such a rate that we must add 80 cities with a population of 1,000,000 every year to hold the crop of humans from a year of breeding. It is time for someone to call for a year of no children and for every woman to be limited to a single child. The more doomsayers give us until 2026 for the environmental collapse to really take hild and 2050 for general lawlessness to occur. Also animal extinctions are on the rise, and of course only the smartest (theoretically) had a say on this path of destruction we seem to have chosen.

    • You don’t actually have to limit children to one child. First of all, you can’t “limit” anything unless you are willing to go to the Orwellian extremes of China where women working in factories had to keep track of their periods on big chalk boards and women weeks away from giving birth were dragged off for forced abortions. Even today there is an entire underclass of people in China who were born ‘illegally” and hence have no birth certificates or other documentation. Secondly, having only two children is actually below the replacement rate since a certain portion of women will have zero children, for a variety of reasons (infertile, die in childhood, don’t want kids etc).

  10. I was wondering from time to time what happened to ZPG, as it is a great cause that we need to be reminded of periodically.
    Thanks for the up date – the 60s seems like a long time ago.

  11. “Population Connection” tells people nothing about your mission. If it’s about promoting Stable Population Growth, why not rename it “SPG”?

    • Because the way to get to a stable population is to have zero population growth, which is our founding name.

  12. I’m a college biology (A&P) professor and want to join. The fundamental cause of everything that’s happening to this planet, sociologically to environmentally, is we outstripped the Earth’s carrying capacity well over 100 years ago. Now we’re experiencing an extinction event. The Earth will survive, but we won’t, and we’ll take 90% of the world’s species with us.

  13. Im a biologist and belonged to ZPG in the 60’s when it was very popular on campus. Population Connection means nothing. You need another focus group to choose a better name
    Only China with their totalitarian regime could stabilize a population so large by edict and enforcement. But advocating for fewer births is critical for the planet. Promoting Family planning agencies without advocating abortions is the only way to achieve this goal.

  14. I’m a senior in college in New Mexico just researching this topic. I’m writing a human interest piece on a fellow peer and she mentioned a big reason she didn’t have children was because of hearing Zero Population Growth’s message. She was a young lady then, with the goal to obtain her degree in nursing and she went as far to get her doctorate. She fostered a boy and got to be a positive figure in his otherwise, difficult upbringing. That experience, as well as pediatrics, gave her time with children, even if they were not biologically hers. I found it interesting and as an amateur journalist, did my research and ended up her. I believe I understand the message, but really before this moment have never heard of it. I have heard of the negative impact of increased population. I find this needs more education, as it seems to have a significant backing (especially before the name change).

  15. I am a former supporter but have stopped my support because I believe that when Population Connection decided to become more PC and to go global, it effectively ensured that it would be inconsequential. ( I just realized that Population Connection and politically correct have the same initials – “PC”. I’ll use PC for both and readers will have to make a contextual interpretation.) To think that PC can make a material difference on a scale that is meaningful in places like Africa, China, India and Indonesia is unrealistic. PC would need the resources of the UN to make such global changes and unfortunately the UN has also abandoned meaningful population control programs in favor of “reproductive rights”.
    I agree that non-coercive programs have the best chance of long-term success, especially cheap and/or free birth control of all forms along with public education starting at a young age. Unfortunately there is a wall of religious resistance to both, even though birth control and education have the potential to make abortion a problem of the past. But if PC focuses on these programs and limits itself to the United States, there is the potential to make a difference.
    But there is an elephant in the room and its a big one. The US already has a birth rate that is below the required replacement rate to maintain our population – yet we are growing 0.7 – 0.8% per year. That amounts to more than 2.5 million new people each year and it is compounding. Why? The answer is immigration in the amount of about 1.7 million annually. (About 1.2 M legally and 0.5 million illegally – we can debate the numbers, but they are directionally valid and instructive). Education and birth control don’t address the biggest contributor to population growth in the US – which is immigration. If we want to limit population growth in the US, we have to talk about it. Confound that with the constant mantra we hear for growth and we have very choppy waters to navigate. But ignoring these drivers ensures inconsequential initiatives. Too frequently I see NGO’s seek out PC safe niches in which to operate in order to perpetuate themselves. These are big issues – use your platform to address them on a realistic scale.

    • One of the factors that drives immigration is high fertility and all the challenges that come with it (unemployment, early marriage, food and fresh water scarcity, etc.). We look at global population growth because, as you point out, the population is growing fastest in places such as [sub-Saharan] Africa. Empowering people in high fertility countries to realize their childbearing desires will improve their health and lives and will reduce resource and infrastructure pressures in their countries of origin, minimizing their drive to emigrate.

  16. Let me know if/when you change your name back to ZPG. While there may have been some confusion about the old name (personally, I don’t buy that explanation because “Population Connection” is completely confusing).

  17. Although zero population growth is the only way to ameliorate the catastrophic consequences of climate change,, no one will touch it with a ten foot pole as a reduction in population growth would doom capitalism as it is currently practiced — as population growth = market growth = a booming economy. Which puts zpg on a collision course with capitalism.

    Instead, the powers that be demonized the zero population growth movement by associating it with forced sterilization, late term abortions, etc.; and many good hearted, but non-thinking people denounced zpg as being an attack on women in developing countries ; it even was looked on as a means of genocide. In other words, zpg was the victim of a smear campaign.

    ZPG would negatively impact capitalism, just as capitalism, which depends on the destruction of nature’s resources, is negatively impacting the earth and everyone on it., But the health of the earth is even more important than a healthy economic system. But not everyone sees it that way.

  18. Yes, I also wondered what happened to ZPG of the early 70s; just now found out by googling that question. I agree with others that the current name doesn’t say anything, totally vanilla, whereas “ZPG” said everything. Focus groups are usually conducted with members of the target audience – i.e. the people you want to reach – not employees who have already signed on and know what it’s about. well, good luck to all of us trying to reach zero population growth and aligning “Population Connection” with climate change, human rights, dwindling resources of the Earth, and most critically, access to comprehensive health care, education, contraception, abortion and ….women’s rights. I’m looking forward to seeing how these issues are addressed by Population Connection

  19. You website refers to “gag rules” overseas. I live in Texas and know for a fact that gag rules are in effect here. For example, physicians and clinics are not allowed to mention” abortion” if they apply for State funding. It is probably the same in every state that has laws aimed at shutting down abortion clinics and leaving women without this option.

  20. ZPG ceased to appeal to the educated classes when it was pointed out that only the educated classes would be likely to adopt it, effectively causing their own extinction.

  21. I wondered what happened to Zero Population Growth. Now I know and now that I am retired I have more time to delve into such issues as they perplex me. I have for years felt discriminated against since I do not have children and have chosen to help the overpopulation of the world by not being one who needs 2-5 kids. But the U.S. offers major advantages for people for having kids – IRS tax credits, bond measures to promote schools and other child rearing endeavors. I feel that requireing me to pay for other people children is discriminatory, especially since the tax credits are not offered to me as well. Have some of these problems and issues been challenged in court? Why is it that our government promotes the American Dream so heavily – buy a home, have a new car, get an expensive education and have loads of children – all the time causing citizens to increase their personal debt. Shouldn’t having children be an individual choice in the U.S. without government interference and benefits? I have simiar arguments about over-spending for education and buying homes and cars one can’t afford. If someone wants to have a child then they should be prepared to pay for ALL THE NEEDS of that child without society chipping in. I’d be willing to be a member of a class action suit against various government entities to help amend some of these abuses. Your thoughts. Who do I turn to to promote my point of view. Thanks.

    • Our view is that tax credits are nowhere near advantageous enough for people to have additional children because of them. Rearing children costs hundreds of thousands of dollars over kids’ first 18 years, and tax benefits are only meant to ease that financial burden slightly. Dependent benefits fall tens of thousands of dollars short of parents breaking even—let alone coming out on top (financially).

      Using taxpayer money to pay for public schools helps entire societies. After all, even those of us without children benefit from other people’s children being well-educated, healthy, and safe.

  22. I wouldn’t bring a child into this world. My late girlfriend,Kathy Armstrong, and I followed ZPG in the late 60’s in Massachusetts

  23. I think you’re organization could be renamed, “Sustainable Population(s)” As at this point we need to stabilize human, population probably back to 2-3 billion or less to enable
    other species to recover and restore balance across the planet. I had one child only (in 1990) because at that time I thought the “one-child” policy of China was important to apply worldwide.
    I was sad when China rescinded that policy (probably because there were having socialization problems with so many “only” children). Personally I think the solution is to get groups of young people together and agree on a ratio like 3 children per 12-15 adults and raise them village-style without couple “ownership”. Serial monogamy is clearly not working. The other corollary of human population reductions/balancing is to elevate the awareness/stewardship of non-human life by substantially increasing the biological knowledge of young and old people alike so they are capable of verifying when wild flora/fauna populations are succeeding. Thank you for listening!

    • Why so many people living in fear here. God created this world, he will and did provide enough resources for the entire population, no matter how many people there are. God said in his word “God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:28.
      Have any of you ever thought about all the babies that are aborted in the world, who were never given the opportunity to fulfill God’s divine will for their lives. Have you ever thought that one of these aborted babies could be the next great scientist who cures cancer, who becomes a great artist, best friend, teacher, etc. Love you all.

  24. Mother Earth is literally our source and origin of life. Preservation of “Her” variety and vitality is key to long term sustainability. Such a concept must be lived in some very real way for humans to appreciate the beauty of ecological sustainability in all it’s complexity. Perhaps some little bit of this notion can still be accomplished within the boundaries of out National Park System. If we only had naturalists and interpreters up to the educational tasks.

  25. Now the government wants to pay people for children. Geez! I get it and I don’t think that it is a bad idea for existing kids, but, long term, there needs to be a limit on the number of children per person for which payments will be made. Mitt Romney actually said that his goal was to encourage people to have more children, but, as far as I can tell, the only real reason to do that is to keep funding Social Security.

    Or, maybe it is the height of human arrogance to think that we are the epitome of evolution. Evolution happens and it happens as a result of environmental stressors. Not so great if you are living through global warming, but maybe ok, several thousand years from now when homo secondus or felus catpien is roaming the planet.

  26. Stop concentrating on abortion, especially past 1st trimester! Concentrate on education, contraception and sterilization for both males and females.

  27. Why is there no academic center studying ways to use fertility and population declines into better lives for humans and the rest of the world? All research is devoted to how to get that population growth back up! And yet, surely, a place like Japan *should* be looking at ways to benefit from a falling population – reduced demands on infrastructure, the ability for population centers to move back from vulnerable coasts, increased reliance on natural processes in watersheds to clean water of pollutants – I can think of dozens more examples. As well, how to achieve a better distribution of existing resources among a smaller population.

    I have looked in vain for such academic studies. Surely some country facing this issue will put up some funds. It seems important!

  28. I agree with the writers who have called for a further renaming of the old ZPG. Might I suggest “Sustainable Population .” Overpopulation is still fully a half of the environmental Armageddon facing planet earth this century. Even towering books such as “The Age of Sustainable Development” by Jeffrey Sachs deal with this “elephant in the room” in a half-hearted way. Admittedly, China’s “one child policy” was given a bad name by the regime’s draconian enforcement, but the almost miraculous development of the Chinese economy was at least partially due to to this policy. It was one mere lifetime ago that I was boy at the dinner table being encouraged to clean my plate by my mother reminding me of the poor starving children in China.

  29. I’ve been an ardent population education/stabilization advocate since I was 18, 40 years ago, so much so that on my first car-a white 1965 Chevy Malibu (with no power steering)-I wrote ZPG = SURVIVAL on the rear fenders in big black Magic Marker. With >>100 million more dumped on this raped, dying and ever more hazardous planet every year since the early 60s (along with an otherwise welcomed reduced death rate), it’s incalculably tragic that virtually none of humanity have grasped the wisdom and pursued the goal of population stabilization. Sweden is perhaps the only exception, but which through gross mismanagement and corporate driven pro-over immigration policies, have trashed what could have been a key virtue of their society.

    What’s also sad is that several posters on this page have made highly credible arguments for why the ZPG name change has been counter productive, while this org replies with little more than Orwellian doublespeak. And I think the price of ZPG’s self-imposed submissiveness is the US population rate has done nothing but grow, even if largely due to bipartisan sanctioned over immigration conspiracy-by at least 45 million over the last 25 years. Even Australia, home of the great naturalist Steve Irwin, has become so packed with people along its coastal and areas further inland that land values have soared as high as on miserably overpopulated Long Island, where I’m stuck, at least until I can retire. I’ve been here my whole life and now it’s literally like a bunch of worms in a can, all on top of each other.

    I’ve observed this org’s visibility level for years, and since the ZPG name change to way more “politically correct” Population Connection, who here has ever heard a peep out of them ever since, even outside of mainstream media??

    Why not at least rename your org Population Education, or something that stirs public curiosity and constructive dialogue? Get creative!

    And, as you probably haven’t done so, why not partner and pool resources and expertise with other like-minded groups and influential individuals?

















  31. I have endorsed ZPG since the early 60, long ago. Any one with half a brain could see the hand writing on the wall. Food will be outstripped by population in 8 to 10 decades. Constant famine worldwide, population explosion worldwide. The end is nearer, I thank God I’m 80 and know my time is short, thank the Lord!

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