Sustainability vs. Population: The Constant Battle

Cassandra P Essay Submission –1st Place Winner.

Paul Hawken once said, “At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product” (Growth Busters, 2015). These wise words describe the current battle with population gain and sustainability and show the dominant focus on economic growth more than sustainability. To some unaware readers, this phrase may mean nothing; but to some, it will spark a realization that a wasteful consumption and lifestyle is causing resources to decline and ruining life for future generations. This essay will define and explain some of the main mistakes society as a whole and citizens of Simcoe County are making including overpopulation and overconsumption, as well as explore the following questions: “What is true sustainability?”, “What is a sustainable population?”, and “What can people do to have a sustainable lifestyle and population in Simcoe County?”

The word sustainable, as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “of or  relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). There are many words that citizens of Simcoe County may use to describe the region, but none of them is sustainable. The two main factors that are stopping humans from being sustainable are overpopulation and overconsumption.

With a population of 479,650 in Simcoe County in 2016, the population is growing at a  rate that will eventually deplete all resources making life unlivable (Statistics Canada, 2016). This problem is also happening on a global scale; earth can support 1-5 billion people, but by the end of the century the population will be around 11 billion (Growth Busters, 2015). Because Simcoe County is home to far too many people compared to what our earth can sustain, the area is experiencing overpopulation.

Overconsumption comes into play since people are using all of and depleting resources  both renewable and non-renewable. Consumption and population are deeply intertwined meaning that the more people there are the less material and resources each individual can consume and vice versa (the smaller the population, the more can be consumed per person) (Growth Busters, 2015). This relationship greatly affects Simcoe County since many are not aware of this; meaning, both our population and consumption rate is high.

Many well-known activists have spoken on the issue of sustainability and the depletion of  resources and the coming generations’ futures, including Greta Thunberg, Jane Goodall, and Paul Hawken (The Environmental Show, 2020). This activism has encouraged our global community to question what a truly sustainable society is. There are five main factors that are needed to have a sustainable society, which are the following: sustainable in energy, sustainable in resources, environmentally sustainable, fiscally sustainable, and socially sustainable (Canadians for a Sustainable Society, 2021). The current consumption of these five factors cannot be sustained permanently, so Simcoe County must lower the consumption rate and its harmful impact on the planet. A truly sustainable lifestyle in Simcoe County would require the use of renewable energy (i.e solar power and wind power) instead of burning fossil fuels and using our non-renewable resources. Governments must also lower the rate of building and industrialization as it, too, depletes the resources (Canadians for a Sustainable Society, 2021).

There is no exact number to what a sustainable population could be for Simcoe County  because it would depend on how much each citizen is willing to do. If every single person lowered their consumption greatly by simply not wasting water, using their lights less, and not using their cars or wasting gas as often, the region would be much more sustainable. The issue is that this has been asked of citizens the entire time, yet not much has changed for the sustainability of Simcoe County. Donald Wright Mann, the founder and president of the Negative Population Growth organization, stated the following: “We believe that the optimum rate of population growth for [the world] is negative, until such time as the scale of economic activity – and its environmental effects – is reduced to a level that would be sustainable indefinitely. We are convinced that if present rates of population and economic growth were allowed to continue, the end result – within the lifetimes of many of us – would inevitably be near-universal poverty in a hopelessly polluted nation and world” (Negative Population Growth, 2021).

More serious and strict enforcement may have to be considered in order to control and  lower the population, including policies on migration and even human fertility (for example, a limit of 2 children per family) (Negative Population Growth, 2021). Society may not react well to these changes and rules, but there are not many other options other than making things a law in order to get more people to listen.

Limits on consumption should also be mandated, meaning people will not be allowed to live their wasteful lives like they do currently. Society’s dependence on fossil fuels will need to be ended since this non-renewable resource is almost completely depleted (Negative Population Growth, 2021). Disposable goods and electric power would have to no longer be used. Recycling and reusing is also key to our sustainability (Canadians for a Sustainable Society, 2021).

With technology as prominent as it is today, governments and environmental initiatives should take advantage of the free advertising by promoting sustainable strategies as well as to create a community that can share resources. Gatherings should be organized to plant trees and plant gardens to grow fresh fruits and vegetables in order to bring sustainability into everyday life (Living Green Barrie, 2021).

“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it” (Robert Swan, n.d.). Although our future will be dark and dreary if we continue at the rate of rapid population growth and overconsumption, society and the entire population must not forget that change is possible if we all work together to do our part. Every single person in Simcoe County can do something to help, even if it simply starts with recycling their plastic, planting a garden or trees, walking instead of driving, or even just turning the lights off when they are not in use. Ultimately, while limits on childbearing and immigration would probably be the most effective way to lower the population, and eventually banning disposable products and electric power would significantly lower consumption, it is important to encourage sustainability gradually so people are not overwhelmed by the task; to the contrary, people will be left hopeful  and excited to help the environment, both at home in Simcoe County, and globally as well.


Canadians for a Sustainable Society. (2021). Home – Canadians for a sustainable society . Retrieved from /

GrowthBusters. (2015). End growth addiction and live sustainably . Retrieved from /

Harmony. (n.d.) 12 recycling and sustainability quotes to inspire kindness to our earth . Retrieved from

Living Green Barrie. (2021). Home – living green Barrie . Retrieved from

Merriam-Webster. (2021). Sustainable | definition of sustainable by Merriam Webster. Retrieved from

Negative Population Growth. (2021). Our vision – negative population growth . Retrieved from

Simcoe Muskoka Health STATS. (2016). Population count. Retrieved from

The Environment Show. (2020). World environmental leaders & activists . Retrieved from

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