QCOP members, Roger Plenty, June New and Cherry Foster

Initial and past activities of QCOP

A Quakerly Concern about Population was accepted by Gloucestershire Area Meeting on 10.09.2013.A minute was sent to Yearly Meeting supporting the Concern of Roger Plenty (Nailsworth Meeting) on Global Population.

“Friends expressed their support for this minute because of the impossibility of continuing as we are if we are to reach the goal of giving every individual the value they deserve….
The writer Pam Lunn commented on the need for change as to how we think culturally about complex issues. Culture change takes a long time. The objective of the Population Group is that we should seek to raise awareness of the issue of over population, which is fundamental and allied to the drive towards sustainability. This can be broadened to remind us that sustainability is a worldwide issue and as Quakers we are a worldwide movement. Therefore increased awareness needs to be worldwide awareness.”

Bath Yearly Meeting August 5th 2014. Roger Plenty and a team of Quakers held a Special Interest meeting at which an audience of about 80 heard Roger Martin, from Population Matters, talk on Population, Change Without Coercion. This was followed by a stall at the Ideas Fair and the creation of an email group of concerned Friends.

General Election May 2015. Resources sheet produced by the embryonic QCOP group, with questions or points to raise with parliamentary candidates. (see Articles)

Inaugural meeting of 6 Quakers in Birmingham, to formalize a group. Adopting the name, QCOP, Quaker Concern Over Population, a simple structure was agreed and various plans made including developing a website, posters, and applying to Friends House to become a Listed Informal Group. The aims of the group are:- 

1. To remind Friends of the dangers of population growth, and the means by which growth can be addressed without coercion.

2. To encourage Friends to overcome their reticence and to explain this difficult and topical subject in a reflective way.

3. To communicate informally with various bodies within the Society of Friends, providing information as needed.

Discussions. Several QCOP members have approached their Meetings and Area Meetings to hold discussions on overpopulation with some success. Two QCOP steering group members gave presentations and ran discussions for the Hampshire and Islands Regional meeting in October 2016. A presentation was given in Sedburgh. So far in 2018  we have  run an event with a short film and personalised discussion based on Minute 36 in Gloucester and Cambridge. (see below for more details)

A Letter entitled, Why Population, was sent to all Area Meetings in August 2016 to consider. We will be following up this initiative in  2016, accompanied by an invitation to hold discussions.

Distribution of free large photographic books, ‘Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot’ to 5 secondary schools and colleges in the Stroud Area November 2015, with others in Cambridge.Book-Page-Composite-v2

A website has been developed, with help from a Quaker in Wales, using a WordPress programme.

A Poster with cartoon is now available on the website to offer to Meetings.

Regular Skype steering group meetings and two open face to face meetings a year, to which QCOP members are invited.

2017 Yearly Meeting Gathering at Warwick.   Anne le Mare, a retired lecturer and QCOP member,  addressed a Special Interest Meeting on the subject of Global Population Issues with particular focus on why people have large families and on the different ways countries have reduced their birth rate. This was attended by about 50 Friends and well received.  In addition, we ran a stall at the Groups Fair, discussed issues and distributed information.

Woodbrooke course: “Costing Not Less Than Everything” 24th to 26th November 2017. The course was a re-visit of the Swarthmore lecture “Costing Not Less Than Everything” given in 2011 by Pam Lunn. This lecture concerning human sustainability on Earth, inspired and affirmed many feelings about how we live in the world and the footprint we leave behind. The lecture is still as relevant today as it was 6 years ago when it was first given. 14 Quakers attended the course which was ably led by Maud Granger, Woodbrooke’s Faith in Action Tutor. Representing QCOP were Jonathan Riddell, Cherry Foster, June New and Nick Chetwood. During the weekend we specifically looked at three areas that are particularly troublesome to sustainability – travel, food and population. On behalf of QCOP, Nick gave a 40 minute presentation on the current population situation and then Cherry briefed attendees on some examples of countries which had had outstanding success in reducing their fertility rate. These presentations were followed by a discussion session. The presentations were received with mixed feelings ranging from anxiety as to what to do, anger at the situation and relief at understanding the Global Population picture better. 

QCOP in Gloucester 03.02.18.  18 Quakers attended an event organised by QCOP and held in the Friends Meeting House in the centre of Gloucester. Friends were drawn from the Area Meeting and from as far as Charlbury, Hereford and South Wales, as well as three of the QCOP organisers from the north of England.

The aim was firstly to introduce participants to the issues caused by global overpopulation in the Quakerly context of the Canterbury Commitment on living sustainably, (Yearly Meeting 2011,Minute 36 ). The second aim was to show how the solutions to the issues are close to Quakerly thinking, involving the education and equality of women and the provision of family planning facilities. The third was to familiarise Friends with the subject so that they find it easier to consider and discuss it with others.

Starting with a short Population Matters film clearly explaining the current global situation, the group moved on to explore their own personal responses in pairs and small group discussion. Feedback on “How overpopulation impoverishes the earth” revealed a wide understanding in the group of the international environmental issues 7.5 billion people are creating, as well as the local problems created in nations. They included, “ Contribution to war, terrorism, migration and human misery”, “Disrupts economies” and “Problems with Cultural assumptions.”

The 3 hour event started with shared lunch in a room with resources on the subject, and ended with tea, cakes and feedback. The latter was very positive. A similar event was held at Cambridge in June 2018, and another in Birmingham in September 2018 with similar encouraging feedback.


QCOP was accepted as a Quaker Recognised Group in July 2018. This led to a flurry of activity, such as becoming a signatory of the 2015 Shared Statement on Climate Change by Quaker Groups. In line with the Alliance of World Scientists – A Warning to Humanity, we urged our members to write to organisations they belong to, such as political parties, pressure groups urging them to read and sign up to the statement.                                                                                                      

Future Plans

Another result of becoming a Quaker Registered group is the automatic invitation to hold a Special Interest Meeting and/or a run a table at the Groups Fair at yearly Meeting. We hope to do both of these in 2019. We are also in discussion to hold an event in Scotland, London, and with Young Friends.

A Discussion Kit needs to be developed with plans, suggestions for materials and useful website addresses.

Cartoon Artists are waiting to be found, as a great memorable resource.(Do YOU know any?)

Advices and Queries.   Despite being fundamental to the recently adopted Quaker commitment to living sustainably, there is a lack of comment on Family Planning or the wider issues of global population in Quaker writing such as Advices and Queries. We are gathering suggestions to put forward to Meeting for Sufferings for inclusion in both the Advices and Queries and the Green Advices and Queries. (Please send your ideas to the website contact).