The Sierra Club and Population Issues

The Sierra Club is a pro-choice organization that endorses comprehensive, voluntary reproductive health care for all. Sexual and reproductive health and rights are inalienable human rights that should be guaranteed for all people with no ulterior motive. A human rights-based approach to climate justice centers a person’s bodily autonomy and individual choice.

The Sierra Club rejects any and all policies, programs, and activities that promote or condone coercion or targets to reduce population. This includes policies and positions made in the name of preventing “overpopulation” by ideas and means that include, but are not limited to zero-growth, population stabilization, family planning as climate mitigation, or promoting women’s empowerment or girls’ education as an indirect means to limit population growth.

The updated 2022 Population Policy is the official policy of the Sierra Club as of May 21, 2022. Any older versions of this policy do not represent the stance or values of the Sierra Club and are no longer supported by the organization. The Sierra Club Board of Directors voted out this policy on May 21, 2022. The National Sierra Club will not be active regarding this subject area as of May 21, 2022.

Sierra Club History

The Sierra Club has had a long history with the issue of population growth. The organization notably published the book, The Population Bomb by Paul and Anne Erlich in 1968 and beginning in the early 1970s, started the Global Population and Environment Program to advocate for limiting family size and reducing birth rates as a solution to environmental issues. The organization and some of its volunteers continued this work over the course of the next several decades. Much of this work and its associated publications are archived online.

In 2017, Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program transitioned to the Gender Equity and Environment Program to focus on women's empowerment in the environmental movement and move away from the work on population growth. In 2022, the Gender Equity and Environment Program was sunsetted, and the work of equity and gender empowerment in the environmental movement became woven into the overall values and mission of all the program work at the Sierra Club.

Sierra Club Today

The Sierra Club focuses on unsustainable, excessive, and inequitable use of resources associated with Western consumption as the primary drivers of environmental and climate degradation. Calls to reduce stress on Earth’s resources must be to stop destructive consumption and to create environmentally responsible societies, not to slow global population growth. Contraception and family planning are not climate mitigation measures. Restricting fertility and using coercive measures to address social and environmental problems and stem population growth has a long, racist, and violent history that violates human rights and undermines bodily autonomy.

Mitigating climate change requires immediate emissions reductions and transformation to sustainable consumption and production, especially in higher-income countries. Systemic transformation and responsibility for reducing global greenhouse gas emissions should not be placed on people, particularly women and girls, in low-emitting countries who contribute very little to the causes of climate change but are highly vulnerable to its effects.

The Sierra Club reaffirms our support of sexual and reproductive health and rights as a matter of self-determination for all people as we envision a world where human beings live in harmony with nature and protect it.

Important Link:

The Sierra Club’s Population Policy