Optimum Population Trust
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What is the Optimum Population Trust?

The Optimum Population Trust is the leading think tank in the UK concerned with the impact of population growth on the environment. OPT research covers population in relation to climate change, energy, resources, biodiversity, development impacts, ageing and employment and other environmental and economic issues. It campaigns for stabilisation and gradual population decrease globally and in the UK. OPT is a registered charity and is financed by its members. It receives funding neither from the government nor from any political or business interests, and is not affiliated to any other organisation*.(*Except as a partner in the Global Footprint Network.)


  • To advance the education of the public in issues relating to human population worldwide and its impact on environmental sustainability;
  • To advance, promote and encourage research to determine optimum and ecologically sustainable human population levels in all or any part or parts of the world and to publicise the results of such research;
  • To advance environmental protection by promoting policies in the United Kingdom or any other part or parts of the world which will lead or contribute to the achievement of stable human population levels which allow environmental sustainability.


      Professor Sir Partha Dasgupta,   Frank Ramsey Professor of Economics, University of Cambridge
      Professor Paul Ehrlich,   Professor of Population Studies, Stanford University
      Jane Goodall PhD DBE,   Founder, Jane Goodall Institute, and UN Messenger of Peace.
      Susan Hampshire OBE,   Actress and population campaigner
      Professor John Guillebaud   Former Co-chair of OPT, Emeritus Professor of Family Planning and Reproductive Health, University College, London. Former Medical Director, Margaret Pyke Centre for Family Planning.
      Professor Aubrey Manning OBE,   President of the Wildlife Trusts and Emeritus Professor of Natural History, University of Edinburgh
      Professor Norman Myers CMG,   Visiting Fellow, Green College, Oxford University, and at Universities of Harvard, Cornell, Stanford, California, Michigan and Texas
      Sara Parkin OBE,    Founder Director and Trustee of Forum for the Future and Director of the Natural Environment Research Council and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and Head Teachers into Industry.
      Jonathon Porritt CBE,   Founder Director of Forum for the Future and Chairman of the UK Sustainable Development Commission.
      Sir Crispin Tickell GCMG KCVO,   Chancellor of Kent University, Director of the Policy Foresight Programme at the James Martin Institute, and former UK Permanent Representative on the United Nations Security Council


      Edmund Davey is a former primary-school teacher and keenly involved in wildlife organisations. He is an expert in ecological footprinting methodology and sustainable energy.
      Martin Desvaux PhD CPhys is a physicist experienced in life assessment techniques for power generation, petrochemical and plant, and formerly a director of ERA Technology. He now researches ecological issues.
      Dr Pippa Hayes is a full-time general practitioner in Devon and mother of two teenage boys.
      Roger Martin, CHAIR OF TRUSTEES, was a senior diplomat, resigning 20 years ago; becoming a leading environmentalist in the South-West and serving on many green NGOs and quangos.
      Simon Ross is an established management consultant providing organisational strategy and performance improvement to the public and private sectors.
      Sir Adrian Stott is a management consultant and former town planner, specialising in strategy and organisation.
      Yvette Willey, Company Secretary, Treasurer and Membership Secretary. Yvette Willey has been with OPT since its foundation and is a businesswoman with treasury and accounts experience.


      Rosamund McDougall,   Former Co-chair of OPT, Founder/MD of Peridot Press, financial journalist (The Banker, Financial Times) and family planning campaigner (Family Planning Association).
      David Nicholson-Lord,    Former Environment Editor, Independent on Sunday, Deputy Chair of the New Economics Foundation and Chair of the Urban Wildlife Network.


      Andrew Ferguson   co-ordinates the OPT Journal's research on eco-footprinting and population carrying capacity.

    HONORARY EDITOR, JACKDAW (Members' magazine)

      Bill Partridge


      Alastair Droop
      Note: This website was launched in June 2002. It was redesigned in May 2004, as a donation to OPT, by Jamie Wightman


      Julie Lewis


      Simon Ross   *See Trustees above.


      Carter Dillard    Westerfield Fellow, Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law, 526 Pine Street, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA.   Email: cdillard@loyno.edu    Tel: USA: (504) 861-5445 / USA (240) 401-4553 (cell).


      Catherine Budgett-Meakin,    Network Co-ordinator, Population & Sustainability Network (supported by the Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust)
      Martin Chilcott,   Chairman & CEO, Meltwater Ventures & 2degrees.
      Harry Cripps MA MSc DMS CEng CEnv,   Chemical engineer and process integration consultant
      Patrick Curry PhD   lives in London and lectures in Religious Studies at the University of Kent. He is the author of 'Ecological Ethics: An Introduction', Polity, 2006.
      Rosamund McDougall,   *See Policy Directors above.
      Rajamani Nagarajah,   Health and development consultant to the European Commission and former Director of Population Concern
      John Rowley,   Founder/Editor of www.peopleandplanet.net and former Editor, People magazine (International Planned Parenthood Federation)
      William Ryerson (USA),   Founder and president of Population Media Center, William Ryerson has worked to promote population stabilisation for four decades, with an emphasis on social change communications.
      Alastair Service CBE, former Chairman of the Family Planning Association
      Valerie Stevens   former Co-chair and Chair of OPT, Valerie Stevens also worked in Friends of the Earth for 20 years, five of them spent as an elected member of the board of directors, and has long experience of political campaigning.


  • To encourage UK governments to act on the strong recommendations of the Government Population Panel in 1973, so as to fully integrate population policy into all decision-making.
  • To oppose the view held by many politicians and economists and those in the commercial world, that perpetual population growth is desirable and possible.
  • To make it widely understood that failure to reduce population is likely to lead to a population crash when fossil fuels, fresh water and other resources become scarce. OPT's overall task is to enable people to recognise the links between the quality of life and environmental destruction and (a) high population levels; (b) wasteful consumption; and (c) poor technology. OPT concentrates on (a) because other environmental organisations dangerously neglect this component. In addition it is a subject which until recently has been shunned by the media. Seeking to reshape people's reproductive behaviour, however democratically, involves the intimate decisions of individuals and is seen as an infringement of human rights. OPT believes that all other human rights and needs will suffer if this issue continues to be ignored.

    The Optimum Population Trust was founded in 1991 by the late David Willey, its first chairman. Its purpose was to collect, analyse and disseminate information about the sizes of global and national populations, and their relations with the carrying capacities of different countries and the quality of life of their inhabitants. It was intended that such information should help people to make informed choices about policies affecting their and their descendants' welfare. Special emphasis was given to the situation in the United Kingdom.

    The need for this function was seen in the failure of UK governments to act on the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Population in 1949, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Science and Technology in 1971 and the Government Population Panel in 1973 to set up a mechanism for monitoring and policy guidance on issues affected by population changes - such as welfare, education, labour supply, population ageing, immigration and impact on the environment.

    The need was also seen in a general neglect of the role of population pressure by bodies concerned with the relief of poverty and protection of the environment, and the consequent tendency of those bodies to promote ineffective or counterproductive policies. OPT was granted charitable status on 9 May 2006.

    OPT campaigns for policies to achieve environmentally sustainable population levels both globally and in the UK. The ecological issue is one of population numbers, resource demands and the environmental impacts created by different sizes of population at given levels of affluence and technology. For more details see the Fertility, Migration, Population policy projections, Briefings and submissions and other sections of this website. OPT recommends the following population policies:
  • Globally, that full access to family planning should be provided to all those who do not have it, that couples should be encouraged voluntarily to "Stop at Two" children to lessen the impact of family size on the environment, and that this should be part of a holistic approach involving better education and equal rights for women.
  • In the UK, that population should be allowed to stabilise and decrease by not less than 0.25% a year to an environmentally sustainable level, by bringing immigration into numerical balance with emigration, by making greater efforts to reduce teenage pregnancies, and by encouraging couples voluntarily to "Stop at Two" children.

  • This website was launched in June 2002
    Items last updated 27 March 2009