Is the Planet Full?

Published by Oxford University Press in May 2014, Is the Planet Full? is a volume of essays edited by Professor Ian Goldin.

What are the impacts of population growth? Can our planet support the demands of the ten billion people anticipated to be the world’s population by the middle of this century?

While it is common to hear about the problems of overpopulation, might there be unexplored benefits of increasing numbers of people in the world? How can we both consider and harness the potential benefits brought by a healthier, wealthier and larger population? May more people mean more scientists to discover how our world works, more inventors and thinkers to help solve the world’s problems, more skilled people to put these ideas into practice?

In this book, leading academics with a wide range of expertise in demography, philosophy, biology, climate science, economics and environmental sustainability explore the contexts, costs and benefits of a burgeoning population on our economic, social and environmental systems.

Readership: Scholars and students (undergraduate and graduate) in the social sciences. Topics of related study include population, demography, development, leadership, public policy, management of global challenges, and social and environmental systems.


  • Anthony B. Atkinson, University of Oxford
  • H. Charles J. Godfray, University of Oxford
  • Ian Goldin, University of Oxford
  • Sarah Harper, University of Oxford
  • Anthony Hartwell, University of Oxford
  • Ian Johnson, The Club of Rome
  • Yadvinder Malhi, University of Oxford
  • Mark New, University of Oxford
  • Robyn Norton, University of Sydney
  • Toby Ord, James Martin Fellow, University of Oxford

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Also available in French and Czech translations.


‘This is a highly original and timely book, bringing together in an accessible manner perspectives from a wide range of disciplines and thinkers. This approach takes us out of the silos we seem to be stuck in to solve our common challenges. The planet is indeed full, but a much more important question addressed by the authors is how we organise ourselves to cooperate effectively so that resources are shared and managed to bring out solutions for all of us.’ — Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Director General, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

‘This book should be read by everyone seeking to understand our shared destiny. I reccomend it to anyone interested in the latest evidence and arguments, as well as the actions necessary to avoid catastrophic outcomes.’— Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director, Greenpeace

‘This book gives very thoughtful reflections from some highly distinguished thinkers highlighting key issues from resources, to food, to health, to inequality, to demographic cultures, to climate change and the environment. It is a very valuable book which should be of great interest to all readers.’ — Lord Nicholas Stern, President British Academy and Professor of Economics and Government, LSE

‘This book provides vital new perspectives on the interaction of the population, food, economic, environmental and other factors. I recommend it to everyone interested in the relationship between people and our planet.’ — Mohammed Valli Moosa, former Minister of Environment and Tourism, South Africa and former President of IUCN

‘Is the Planet Full? is a fine addition to the growing literature indicated a renewed interest in the population-consumption drivers of environmental deterioration. It highlights many of the key dimensions of the problem, often provides interesting analyses, and sometimes provides examples of areas where our broken educational system has left gaps in the knowledge of even excellent scholars. This book belongs in the library of anyone trying to understand the human future.’ — Paul R. Ehrlich, Bing Professor of Population Studies, Stanford and co-author of The Dominant Animal

Press coverage and reviews

‘Les citizens et les consommateurs vont jouer un role majeur’ 11 December, 2015

Ian Goldin interviewed on BBC Radio Oxford about Is the Planet Full? 8 December, 2014

LSE Review of Books: Is the Planet Full? 11 August, 2014

Nature: Is the Planet Full? 19 June, 2014

Is the Planet Full Cover

Ian Goldin spoke about Is the Planet Full? on Saturday 24 May at the Hay Festival.

Professor Charles Godfray and Professor Yadvinder Malhi also spoke at Hay, talking about their chapters of Is the Planet Full? on Saturday 31 May. In a separate event on the same day, Professor Sarah Harper spoke about her chapter, and also about her new book, The End of Population Growth?

Ian Goldin appeared at The Wilderness Festival on 10 August and at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival on 11 October.