So Over Population [Part I and II]

Overpopulation was one of the biggest environmental issues of the 60s and 70s, arguably bigger than saving the whales, planting trees, and acid rain. But then… it seemed to disappear from the conversation. That is until the release of the movie Avengers: Infinity War where the ultimate bad guy Thanos is motivated by one concern: overpopulation.

Today, we’re talking about population. How it went from being on the front pages of our newspapers and all over late night television to being the issue that you’ll only hear from out of the mouth of a comic book super-villain.

And this subject is… well, let’s just say it’s not the kind of story that you can handle breezily in a half-hour. So we’re going to spend two episodes on it. Buckle up! We’re going down the rabbit hole.

In the second part of our two-part series, we’re digging into the story of how around the turn of the millennium, population got all tangled up in immigration in one vote at the Sierra Club.

That ugly fight represents a pivot point for the movement: a transition from the environmental politics of the 70s and 80s to the environmental politics of today.

A population reading list:

David Roberts’ story from Vox: “I’m an environmental journalist, but I never write about overpopulation. Here’s why.”

Historian Derek Hoff: “A Long Fuse: ‘The Population Bomb’ is still ticking 50 years after its publication.”

“Population and Environment” in the Annual Review of Environment and Resources

A hot take on Thanos (spoiler - Alessandra Potenza says he has it wrong)


Outside/In was produced this week by Sam Evans-Brown with help from Taylor Quimby, Hannah McCarthy, Justine Paradis, Nick Capodice, and Jimmy Gutierrez. Erika Janik is our Executive Producer.

Thanks this week to

Music in this episode by Komiku, Jason Leonard, Blu Dot Sessions, and Poddington Bear.

Thanos photo from Hannaford.

Our theme Music is by Breakmaster Cylinder.

Outside/In is a production of New Hampshire Public Radio.