Open talk by Professor Jade Sasser: “Disrupting Malthusian Global Futures”
The Malthusian concept of population growth—as a primary driver of environmental scarcity—has long shaped knowledge production in the demographic and ecological sciences. These knowledge practices not only reflect dynamics in the present; they also produce dystopian circumscribed visions of local and global futures, which in turn impact activists’ views of what is possible. This paper analyzes the ways projection models forecasting future global population and climate dynamics shape international family planning activism. I draw on extensive ethnographic work among young family planning policy advocates to analyze how the Malthusian model, and prevailing environmental fears and anxieties about climate change, shape new efforts to address population control, social justice, and women’s empowerment on a global scale. Further, the paper raises questions about the possibility of dislodging Malthusianism from scientific and activist efforts, and the importance of reproductive justice in these efforts.