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.)

28 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!

  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.

    stevemapleemail@yahoo.com

  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/

  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.
    Steve

  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.

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Since 1968, Population Connection (formerly Zero Population Growth or ZPG) has been America's voice for population stabilization—we are the largest grassroots population organization in the United States! As a 501(c)(3) charity, all donations made to us are tax-deductible.

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