Research Seminar

Emily Klancher Merchant: Challenging Overpopulation

Date: 5 October 2022
Time: 10:00-11:45

Place: Holländargatan 13, Stockholm, or online.

Research seminar with Emily Klancher Merchant, Associate Professor of Science and Technology Studies, University of California, Davis. Emily is an historian of science, technology, and medicine and the author of Building the Population Bomb, that examines how human population growth became a subject of scientific expertise and an object of governmental and philanthropic intervention in the twentieth century.


Can we ethically achieve a sustainable population size? Answers to this question typically focus on the human rights abuses perpetrated by efforts to control the world’s populations in the twentieth and earlyt wenty-first centuries. This talk instead explores the emergence and development of the ideas that population growth is a major driver of environmenta ldevastation (including our current climate crisis) and that environmental protection requires a reduction in human numbers. It demonstrates that such claims originated in and have been sustained by eugenic efforts to control the reproduction of poor people and people of color worldwide in order to protect the production and consumption of wealthy industrialists in the Global North. It argues that efforts to achieve sustainability through population control are inherently unjust because they aim to regulate human existence rather than such proximate causes of ecosystem degradation as polluting modes of production, extractive business practices, and government subsidies for fossil fuel development. Ultimately, reproductive justice and environmental justice are inseparable from one another, and achieving them requires that we aim to sustainably support the number of people we expect to have rather than trying to achieve a particular population size.

Join the seminar online or at the Institute for Futures Studies. If you will join on site, please check the box in the registration form.

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