Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation (NPG Booknote)

Move Upstream:  A Call to Solve Overpopulation

An NPG Booknote


Ardent naturalist, author, and longtime population activist Karen I. Shragg has recently released a new book: Move Upstream: A Call to Solve Overpopulation (Freethought House, Inc.; Minneapolis – St. Paul, Minnesota, 2015 – available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble). A member of the Advisory Board of World Population Balance, Karen holds an Ed.D. in critical pedagogy and is the director of Wood Lake Nature Center in Richfield, Minnesota. Her latest work focuses on “how overpopulation is preventing long-term success on so many of the issues we [environmentalists] care about, and what we can do about it.”

In just 96 pages, this short work packs a powerful punch – providing a clear window into the longstanding challenge faced by population activists: the battle between “individual acts of consumption and the amount of actual consumers.” Echoing what NPG has long held, Shragg explains: “We have focused most of our attention on… conservation and technology while our numbers have been spinning out of control.” In her trademark style – which is succinct, factual, and eloquent – Shragg proclaims: “It is time to eliminate the taboo of talking about the human numbers side of the equation.”

The book’s title highlights the frequent problem with focusing only on environmental challenges and resource consumption rates. Shragg notes: “Most activism is focused downstream… on symptoms. Upstream acts focus on the causes of problems. …Activists who ignore the realities of overpopulation in their discourse will perpetually struggle downstream.”

The piece is full of solid data, demonstrating the clear and present danger of today’s population growth. After explaining that “we add one million passengers to our planet every 4.5 days,” Shragg points out that a sustainable human population for the planet “is billions below our current [7.3] billion.” This massive overpopulation is only getting worse – which is why we must act now to slow, halt, and eventually reverse that growth! The book explains: “The longer we delay action, the less desirable our options become.”

Shragg’s slim book manages to cover almost every element of the activism spectrum, including: conservation, social justice, feminism, clergy, “smart” growth initiatives, politicians, non-renewable natural resource scarcity, national population policies, consumption rates, poverty, immigration, contraception, fracking and fossil fuel production, biodiversity, climate change, world peace, media coverage, art and culture, and “sustainable” or “green” technology. Shragg boldly lists specific organizations by name, highlighting their strengths as well as their shortcomings (or, more aptly, their “blinders”) when it comes to the population issue.

Convenient, easy-to-read, and fact-filled, Move Upstream is a reliable resource on today’s population challenges. The book offers an accurate road map on how – in each area of activism and personal interest – one can introduce the issue of overpopulation, and demonstrate how it is clearly linked to the cause at hand. Shragg uses her decades of experience not just to identify problems, but also to expertly propose viable solutions in the fight for our planet’s future.


There is no remedy that can possibly avert disastrous Climate Change and Global Warming unless we first address the problem of world population size and growth, and its impact on the size of the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.That means that we need to address the population size and growth of each nation, which together make up the world total.

World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!

From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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