You correctly point out that exponential human population growth is a myth (see Nature 528, 322–325; 2015). The rate of growth has been slowing since 1970, largely as a result of education efforts aimed at women and girls, and family planning programmes. Population growth is still a serious concern, however, because human numbers and increases are currently unsustainable.

Ecological footprint analysis, for example, indicates that it would take 1.6 Earths to support the current world population at average resource-consumption levels ( This is set to increase, given the expanded rate of consumption to which developing countries aspire. Moreover, we are tearing the web of life by condemning tens of thousands of non-human species to extinction (G. Ceballos et al. Sci. Adv. 1, e1400253; 2015). A positive rate of growth will make the damaging effects of the human population to our planet even worse.