Stephanie Mills made headlines in the Spring of 1969 when she vowed, in her commencement address, to conceive no children. “Our days as a race on this planet are, at this moment, numbered,” she proclaimed, “and the reason for our finite, unrosy future is that we are breeding ourselves out of existence.”

In remarks titled, The Future is a Cruel Hoax, the young, articulate, environmental-leader-to-be shared her plan with fellow graduates at Mills College (no relationship):

I am terribly saddened by the fact that the most humane thing for me to do is to have no children at all. But the piper is finally demanding payment.”

Stephanie Mills in 1969Wire services and newspapers picked this up, and within a few days Stephanie Mills was famous. Stanford Biologist Paul Ehrlich was gaining notoriety at the time for his outspoken advocacy for reining in population growth. Stephanie called Paul Ehrlich, and said, “it looks like I’m going to be stealing a lot of your material.” She reports that he responded, “Help yourself, you’ve made us all very, very happy.”

This launched a career for Stephanie as a thoughtful, articulate champion for ecology and social change. She became a noted author and lecturer on bioregionalism, ecological restoration, community economics, and voluntary simplicity. In this 2010 interview, Stephanie reflects on the life she has led and the important decision she made at the age of twenty. She shares insight about things like “the 500-year war on subsistence,” and the dumbing down of discourse about overpopulation.

What do you think? Should we be encouraging more decisions like the one Stephanie made? Your comments are welcome below.

Stephanie MillsMore About Stephanie Mills:
Within a year of graduating, Stephanie Mills delivered about 80 talks on the subject of overpopulation and the necessity of birth control. In 1970, she became Editor-in-Chief of Earth Times, a San Francisco-based monthly environmental tabloid. In 1972, she received a grant from the Point Foundation to conduct a salon at the United Nations Conference on Human Environment. She went on to produce seven books, including Whatever Happened to Ecology?, Tough Little BeautiesEpicurean Simplicity, In Service of the Wild, On Gandhi’s Path: Bob Swann’s Remarkable Work for Peace and Community Economics, and The Joy of Birth Control.

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  1. Stephanie has certainly leveraged her personal choice to good effect. The day will not be won until the vast majority of us are prepared to speak plainly and make it socially undesirable to be a rampant breeder.

  2. Stephanie has stayed true to her revelatory insights about population and individual, ethical choices. May we learn to extend her courage and commitment to succeeding generations.

  3. I was delighted to recently come across Stephanie and her address to Mills College. Having decided not to have children, along with my husband, over 50 years ago also due to our recognizing the world is overpopulated, I think Stephanie and I are kindred spirits. I am very saddened by the lack of serious discussions regarding overpopulation and especially about the current political environment around abortion, allowing the government to reclaim the right to determine what women decide about their own bodies. All this being driven by the political right reflects their total lack of intelligence, I believe. It feels as though we have moved back in time in many ways. The current climate disasters and the ever increasing migration of people certainly should be a wake up call for a radical political change yet we see the total opposite of what is sane.
    Feeling sad doesn’t capture my view…enraged is a better descriptor.

  4. Linda B, thanks for commenting. Perhaps you’ll take some minor comfort in finding that there is a candidate for U.S. President who is committed to having this conversation. See

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