1st Edition

The Environmental Impact of Overpopulation The Ethics of Procreation

By Trevor Hedberg Copyright 2020
    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    This book examines the link between population growth and environmental impact and explores the implications of this connection for the ethics of procreation.

    In light of climate change, species extinctions, and other looming environmental crises, Trevor Hedberg argues that we have a collective moral duty to halt population growth to prevent environmental harms from escalating. This book assesses a variety of policies that could help us meet this moral duty, confronts the conflict between protecting the welfare of future people and upholding procreative freedom, evaluates the ethical dimensions of individual procreative decisions, and sketches the implications of population growth for issues like abortion and immigration. It is not a book of tidy solutions: Hedberg highlights some scenarios where nothing we can do will enable us to avoid treating some people unjustly. In such scenarios, the overall objective is to determine which of our available options will minimize the injustice that occurs.

    This book will be of great interest to those studying environmental ethics, environmental policy, climate change, sustainability, and population policy.


    Part 1: Confronting the Problem 

    1. The Uncomfortable Reality of Rising Numbers

    2. The Gravity of the Population Problem

    Part 2: Intergenerational Ethics, Population Policy, and Personal Procreative Obligations

    3. Intergenerational Equity and Long-Term Environmental Impacts

    4. The Moral Duty to Halt Population Growth

    5. Policies That Promote Smaller Families

    6. Individual Procreative Obligations

    Part 3: Objections from Alternative Approaches to Procreative Ethics

    7. Antinatalism

    8. Reproductive Rights and Procreative Freedom

    Part 4: Lingering Questions

    9. What about Immigration?

    10. What about the Nonhuman Community?

    11. Can We Solve the Problem?

    Appendix I: The Non-Identity Problem


    Trevor Hedberg is a postdoctoral scholar at The Ohio State University, USA, jointly affiliated with the College of Pharmacy and the Center for Ethics and Human Values.

    "The great, escalating crises of climate disruption and biodiversity loss are unavoidably entangled with the population problem. Trevor Hedberg analyzes that problem rationally and ethically and proposes practical solutions. His efforts yield conclusions that are logical yet humane and realistic yet hopeful." -- John Nolt, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and Research Fellow in the Energy and Environment Program at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, University of Tennessee, US

    "Philosophers and ethicists have begun to enter the discussion of overpopulation in recent years, but it has been slow and piecemeal. Until now. Trevor Hedberg’s book is an impressively thorough investigation into the ethical and policy issues raised by our ever-increasing numbers." -- Travis N. Rieder, Director of the Master of Bioethics degree program, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, US

    "It’s taboo to discuss reproductive issues in the West except in the context of liberty. As a result, Western thought has failed to reflect on the deepest problem of our age—the collision with planetary boundaries. Hedberg’s Overpopulation is a breath of fresh air. It connects the dots, asks the right questions, and leads to new insights." -- Martin Schönfeld, Professor of Philosophy and Faculty in the College of Global Sustainability, University of South Florida, US

    "Trevor Hedberg summarizes the most credible empirical evidence and best moral arguments regarding population growth. He also presents original arguments that are subtle and convincing. Furthermore, the book is accessibly written, clear, and persuasive. It’s definitely a must read for anyone interested in this topic!" -- Ramona C. Ilea, Professor and Philosophy Department Chair, Pacific University, US