Non-profit

Population Connection (Zero Population Growth)

Location:

WASHINGTON, DC

Tax ID:

94-1703155

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $12,029,818
Expenses: $10,449,928
Assets: $22,472,268

Formation:

1968

Formerly:

Zero Population Growth

Population Connection is a left-leaning nonprofit advocacy group that supports global population control policies. The organization was founded in 1968 as Zero Population Growth by environmentalist and population control activist Paul Ehrlich directly following the publication of his controversial 1968 book, The Population Bomb.

The organization affirms that population growth has been the primary driver of environmental degradation and that the best way to promote environmentalism is to limit the growth of the earth’s population to a rate that causes no growth in the number of people. The organization promotes contraceptive use and abortions across the world and supports left-leaning policies regarding abortion, contraceptive use, and environmentalism and lobbies Congress through its affiliated organizations the Population Connection Action Fund and the Population Connection Action Fund PAC. [1]

Population Connection has longstanding partnerships with left-leaning and pro-abortion organizations such as the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the National Organization for Women, and the American Civil Liberties Union to oppose restrictions to abortion at the state and federal level in the United States. [2]

History

Population Connection was founded in 1968 as Zero Population Growth, a name it kept until a rebranding in 2002. The organization was founded by Paul Ehrlich, a professor at Stanford University. [3]

The Population Bomb

At the time, Ehrlich had just released The Population Bomb, which predicted global catastrophe, mass starvation, and skyrocketing death rates by the end of the 20th century due to world population growth. Ehrlich coauthored the book with his wife Anne in just three weeks after being asked by David Brower, then-executive director of the Sierra Club, to write a book on population growth with the hopes on influencing the 1968 presidential elections. The book offered dire and alarmist predictions regarding the future of the environment, notably stating that in the 1970s, “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death. No matter what people do, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.” [4]

The Population Bomb, which is still cited by Population Connection as a seminal writing in the field of population research, was widely criticized from a variety of angles. [5] Critics including Sunita Narain, head of the Centre for Science and Environment in India, pointed out that Ehrlich’s criticism of New Delhi being an overcrowded slum, while in reality the population of the city was a fraction of that of Paris, was an unfair criticism more easily attributed to certain crowded areas, not actual overpopulation. [6]

Even more criticized were the predictions that Ehrlich made in The Population Bomb and elsewhere in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such as when he predicted the collapse of human society and the largest mass death event in the history of the human race within fifteen years in a 1969 magazine article. [7]

Ehrlich stated later that while he regretted framing what he claimed were simply scenarios as predictions about environmental disaster and mass starvation, he denied that none of his claims came true, citing famines in India, Cambodia, Bangladesh, and Africa. However, widely accepted starvation and death rate statistics indicated that there was no significant rise in the global death rate and that most starvation events were the result of war or bad governance rather than environmental degradation. [8]

Smithsonian Magazine stated that Ehrlich’s dire claims along with the success of The Population Bomb, which became a best seller and sold millions of copies in the 1970s, led to a global panic with governments and international aid organizations instituting draconian contraceptive campaigns. The ensuing global population control campaign of the 1970s was called “horrific” by author Betsy Hartman, who wrote a 1987 exposé of the anti-population organizations titled Reproductive Rights and Wrongs. [9] Population control campaigns in poor nations led to the pressuring of women only to use approved contraceptive methods, paying healthcare workers by the number of intrauterine devices inserted into women, which invited abuse, and in Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Indonesia and Bangladesh, millions of people were coercively sterilized, often in unsafe conditions. [10]

Ehrlich rejects personal responsibility for alleged abuses in global population control campaigns, simply stating that while he strongly supported sterilization and vasectomy campaigns, he did not advocate for brutality and discrimination within the campaigns. [11]

Early Years

The first basic mission of Population Connection (Zero Population Growth) was to stress the alleged link between the environment and population growth and urge Americans to have smaller families. This led to the organization to adopt the motto: “Stop at Two,”[12] urging Americans to stop after having two children. Early efforts of the organization were aimed at the white middle class of America due to claims from Ehrlich and other founders of the organization that while there were more people living in developing nations, it was the white middle-class majority in America who consumed more resources and contributed more to environmental degradation. [13]

Early efforts of the organization included handing out condoms with custom branding and opening vasectomy clinics. The organization also sponsored several college student groups, with one of the first being founded at Yale University. [14]

Zero Population Growth was very active in supporting left-leaning abortion and contraceptive laws in the 1970s and cites the US Supreme Court’s decisions in Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 and Eisenstadt v. Baird in 1967 which allowed married and unmarried couples respectively the right to use contraceptives as vital to the organization’s U.S.-based efforts. The organization was supportive of rewriting the federal Comstock Laws of 1873, which Congress did in 1970 to declassify contraceptives as obscene. The organization began a longstanding relationship with several pro-abortion organizations such as the National Organization for Women, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union. The organization was an advocate of the Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion as well as a companion decision, Doe v. Bolton, which legalized elective sterilization. [15]

Population Education Center

Another early focus of the organization was its Population Education Center, which remains a core program and provided outreach to students and teachers, pushing to include teachings about overpopulation into lesson plans. The Population Education Center created a video in the 1970s about the increasing world population that it continues to update and promote known as the “dot video,”[16] which demonstrates the increase in the world population from 1 A.D. to an estimated population in 2050. The organization claims that the video is the most widely watched video on population growth in the world. Another long-time activity of the organization included publishing a magazine titled the ZPG National Reporter. [17]

In the 1980s, Zero Population Growth began to expand its messaging beyond simply warning about population growth and encouraging families to have two or fewer children. The organization began more aggressively supporting pro-abortion laws and expanded access to abortions across the United States. The organization’s website attacks the influence of the “Religious Right”[18] in the 1990s as leading to an increase of pro-life legislation being filed in state legislatures. [19]

Activities

Current activities of Population Connection center on three core programming areas, as well as mobilizing its claimed membership base of 55,000 environmentalist and pro-abortion activists. The three core programs of the organization are population education, advocacy, and membership engagement. [20]

Education

The educational programming promoted by Population Connection is centered on getting teachers to use the organization’s curricula in K-12 classrooms across the United States. The organization hosts teacher workshops to educate them on the organization’s positions regarding links between world population growth, global warming, and species extinction. The organization claims to train 12,000 teachers annually and has hosted over 3,400 workshops since 2015. The organization has an annual student video contest where students are assigned to create a 60-second video explaining an alleged link between population growth and several rotating topics. Teachers are encouraged to assign contest participation as a class assignment and topics for the 2020-2021 contest are “promoting environmental justice, strengthening global health, and re-imagining industrial systems.” [21]

Lesson plans published by Population Connection promote a variety of left-leaning positions regarding the climate, contraceptives, and the history of population control campaigns. The organization has published dozens of various classroom materials for students in grades K-12 and tailors lesson plans for use in common core education standards, as well as for English as a Second Language (ESL) curriculum, and has lesson plans available that align with state standards in all 50 states. [22]

Membership Engagement

Population Connection also has a large volunteer base and claims to have over 55,000 grassroots members who advocate for population control, abortion, and environmentalist issues on behalf of the organization. The organization offers in-person and virtual events to volunteer at including film screenings, book clubs, Earth Day celebrations, and a virtual course on population and climate change. The organization encourages its volunteers to post flyers, write letters to the editor and contact Congress about state and federal government policies supported by the organization. [23]

Advocacy

Population Connection has several federal legislative priorities, all of which support Democratic-sponsored and left-leaning legislation and government policies. The foremost policy supported by Population Connection is the repeal of an executive action that has been enacted by all Republican presidents since 1984 that bans U.S.-funded aid programs across the world to provide information about abortion to individuals receiving aid. The rule has been systematically revoked by all Democratic Presidents since it was first adopted, including by President Joe Biden shortly after he took office in 2021. Population Connection was vocal about its support for the repeal of the rule shortly after Biden’s election and lobbied for it through its lobbying arm, the Population Connection Action Fund. [24]  The organization also supports The Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act (S. 142 / H.R. 556), legislation that would prevent future Republican Presidents from enacting similar rules. [25] The legislation is co-sponsored by 44 of the 50 Senate Democrats in the 117th Congress along with Republican Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). [26]

The organization also supports U.S. funding of the United Nations Population Fund, an agency of the United Nations that provides contraceptives and maternal health services, including safe delivery kits, treatment for obstetric fistula, and other services in 155 countries and to those in areas devastated by natural disasters. [27] In 2017, the Trump Administration withdrew funding from the UN Population Fund over allegations that the program provided funding for coercive abortions and forced sterilization in China. While the UN denied such claims, the UN Population Fund has long been the subject of criticism from Republicans over its support of Chinese government programs. [28]

Population Connection also supports repealing the Helms Amendment, a 1973 law that prohibits the use of U.S. Foreign Assistance programs for funding oversees abortions, and increasing U.S. funding for global family planning and contraceptive campaigns from $607 million to $1.6 billion. [29]

Population Connection engages in left-leaning protests and is part of many coalitions around pro-abortion organizing and protesting. The organization hosted and participated in several protests against the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh with rallies titled “Cancel Kavanaugh”, “Save SCOTUS,” and “Save Roe v. Wade.” [30] The organization also hosted an advocacy and activist training in partnership with Planned Parenthood, Civitas Public Affairs Group, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance. [31]

People

John Seager is the President and CEO of Population Connection and the Population Connection Action Fund. Seager previously worked for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and was Chief of Staff to U.S. Representative Peter Kostmayer (D-PA). [32] Kostmayer served as president of Zero Population Growth after leaving Congress and Seager succeeded him as president of the organization. [33] Seager earned a total compensation of $293,000 in 2018. [34]

Brian Dixon leads lobbying efforts for the organization as the senior vice president of Population Connection and the Population Connection Action Fund. Dixon has been with the organization since 1993 and also served on Rep. Kostmayer’s staff. [35]

References

  1. “Mission and Programs.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/us/mission-and-programs/ ^
  2. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  3. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  4. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  5. McGunn, William. “The Population Bomb was a Dud.” The Wall Street Journal. April 30, 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-population-bomb-was-a-dud-1525125341 ^
  6. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  7. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  8. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  9. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  10. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  11. Mann, Charles. “The Book That Incited a Worldwide Fear of Overpopulation.” Smithsonian Magazine. January/ February 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/innovation/book-incited-worldwide-fear-overpopulation-180967499/ ^
  12. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  13. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  14. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  15. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  16. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  17. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  18. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  19. Rao, Nina “30 Years of ZPG.” Population Connection. 1998. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.populationconnection.org/us/30-years-of-zpg/ ^
  20. “Mission and Programs.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/us/mission-and-programs/ ^
  21. “Population Education.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/populationeducation/ ^
  22. “Articles, Fact Sheets, Book Lists.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://populationeducation.org/curriculum-and-resources/articles-factsheets-book-lists/ ^
  23. “Get Involved.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/getinvolved/ ^
  24. Wulfhorst, Ellen. “Biden win seen as green light for women’s reproductive rights.” Reuters. November 7, 2020. Accessed April 29, 2021.

    https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-women-abortion-trfn-idUSKBN27N0SG ^

  25. “Advocate.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/advocate/ ^
  26. “S.142 – Global Health, Empowerment and Rights Act.” Congress.gov. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-bill/142?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22Global+Health%2C+Empowerment+and+Rights+Act%22%5D%7D&s=2&r=1 ^
  27. “Advocate.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/advocate/#panel2 ^
  28. “US Withdraws Funding from United Nations Population Fund.” BBC. April 4, 2017. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39487617 ^
  29. “Advocate.” Population Connection. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.populationconnection.org/advocate/#panel4 ^
  30. “IRS Form 990.” Population Connection. 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/941703155/10_2019_prefixes_92-95%2F941703155_201812_990_2019100916732645 ^
  31. “IRS Form 990.” Population Connection. 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/941703155/10_2019_prefixes_92-95%2F941703155_201812_990_2019100916732645 ^
  32. “John Seager.” Huffington Post. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://www.huffpost.com/author/john-seager ^
  33. “Peter H. Kostmayer: Revolving Door Summary” Center for Responsive Politics. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/rev_summary.php?id=70717 ^
  34. “IRS Form 990” Population Connection. 2018. Accessed April 29, 2021.  https://projects.propublica.org/nonprofits/display_990/941703155/10_2019_prefixes_92-95%2F941703155_201812_990_2019100916732645 ^
  35. “Brian Dixon.” LinkedIn Profile. Accessed April 29, 2021. https://www.linkedin.com/in/brian-dixon-5862904/ ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Paul Ehrlich
    Co-Founder
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: November 1, 1979

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Dec Form 990 $12,029,818 $10,449,928 $22,472,268 $5,779,136 Y $11,632,800 $5,965 $356,834 $269,685 PDF
    2017 Dec Form 990 $15,346,933 $11,877,986 $22,079,263 $6,521,666 N $15,120,677 $9,896 $171,492 $156,762 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $11,546,324 $9,019,505 $14,051,979 $2,524,675 N $11,160,591 $4,953 $338,330 $123,443
    2015 Dec Form 990 $8,399,522 $7,580,584 $11,861,533 $3,084,996 N $7,993,518 $3,359 $136,586 $87,851 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $10,951,499 $6,670,817 $9,327,945 $1,312,647 N $10,868,301 $0 $26,284 $165,284 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $5,632,651 $4,339,629 $4,281,217 $611,931 N $5,548,499 $0 $62,898 $154,345 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $3,997,139 $3,530,446 $2,821,740 $456,896 N $3,949,421 $1,967 $25,184 $145,405 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $3,454,806 $3,182,015 $2,335,301 $438,152 N $3,412,954 $1,000 $11,753 $147,926 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Population Connection (Zero Population Growth)

    2120 L ST NW STE 500
    WASHINGTON, DC 20037-1534