25 Years of the Utah Population & Environment Council
Very recently (December 17, 2022, to be exact), the Utah Population & Environment Council (UPEC) celebrated its 25h Anniversary. Happy Anniversary to us!
To state the obvious, a lot has changed demographically everywhere in 25 years. In 1997, the population of Utah sat at just over 2.0 million; today, it’s around 3.4 million and is projected to increase to 5.5 million by 2060. The world’s population in 1997 was 5.9 billion. In November, it blew past the 8 billion mark (a dubious milestone UPEC marked with an engaging and fun-filled social event in November).
UPEC’s original organization meeting took place on December 17, 1997. Among the founding members, Wayne Martinson, Ann O’Connell, and Doug Stark, Salt Lake City residents, remain very active with UPEC.
UPEC originally formed as the Utah Population & Environment Coalition. The Coalition was a program component of the Wellness Health & Lifestyle Education Center (WHALE), which remains a vibrant local non-profit. UPEC received three small grants from the National Audubon Society that helped us get off the ground for the first few years.
The association with WHALE was very productive, but eventually UPEC Board members thought it best to become a separate organization. Beginning in 2016, the group started operating as an independent 501(c)3 organization: The Utah Population and Environment Council (UPEC).
UPEC has always believed in thinking globally and acting locally.
Thus, we have concentrated our efforts on addressing the myriad problems caused by our beautiful state’s relentless increases in population growth and resource consumption, particularly along the Wasatch Front.
Over the years, UPEC’s educational strategy has included: tabling at universities, farmers’ markets, and street fairs; participating in special, large public events such as the Intermountain Sustainability Summit held each year at Weber State University and the UN Civil Society Conference, where we co-tabled with national Population Connection at the Salt Lake Convention Center; hosting our own special events, such as our recent 8 Billion people event; and, finally, sponsoring and/or participating in roundtable and panel discussions.
UPEC has long developed some big-project/research chops, as well.
Some highlights of UPEC’s projects over the last 25 years include The Utah Vital Sign Studies, including the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) study, which went from 1990 to 2007, and the Utah Ecological Footprint study, which was completed in 2007. The Small Families Campaign initiative ran from 2012 through 2013. This media-intensive campaign included on billboard, radio spots and web-based audio presentations and video interviews.
Finally, our recent white paper, Utah’s Fertility Decline: Richer Lives for All, written by Steve Bannister, a UPEC board member and economics professor at the U of U, details our economic-demographic positions. More specifically, this white paper shows why all of us — even fervent capitalists — should embrace the slowing fertility rates in Utah and in most of the world. Putting aside the very crucial debate about whether we should move to a no-growth economy and consume less per person (a position to which many UPEC members and supporters adhere), declining fertility is NOT a cause for economic and social concern. Just the opposite, as fertility rate continues to decline, everyone on the planet (even those under the burden of poverty) can enjoy growth in per capita wealth while simultaneously enjoying the many environmental and social benefits of a less crowded planet.
I am optimistic for the next 25 years at UPEC. Although, given how much fertility rates come down, we like to joke that we are the most successful of all Utah nonprofits, I fear we have much work to do as our population continues to surge, our snowpack diminishes, and the Great Salt Lake faces unprecedented and perhaps even existential pressures. We will keep working hard to educate Utahans about the inextricable link between overpopulation and environmental degradation — around the world and in our little corner of it. And we will work hard to remain a relevant and effective force in healing Utah and the earth and all its inhabitants, including non-human species. Please share this blog entry as a start! And, again, please, please, please visit and LIKE us on our social media profiles. Thank you, Happy New Year, and Happy Anniversary UPEC!