GAIA Foundation Endowment Grants

Demographic, Economic, and Consumerist Patterns in the 21st century

The GAIA Foundation’s new Endowment Grants are intended to promote understanding and generate specific policies to foster constructive change in developed economies in the 21st century. Projects will explore a range of potential interventions to respond to a broad range of societal dislocations associated with one of these two critical societal challenges:

  • Generational Cohort Realignments: Adaptations to accommodate the varied economic/social impacts – especially of the expanded seniors cohort.
  • Extreme Consumerism: Incentives which serve to moderate patterns of consumption at the individual, corporate, and governance level.

The goal is to encourage objective, science-based dialog about these critical issues in developed nations. The grants are intended to support innovative, well-conceived, multiyear projects to increase our understanding of various constructive societal responses to trending demographic realignments and longstanding consumption patterns.


The 21st century is a time of dramatic demographic change. The growth of the global population – beyond the current 8 billion to perhaps 10 or 11 billion – will create a wide range of challenges. In the underdeveloped economies, there will be ongoing problems providing sufficient food, water, health, education, energy, and sanitation. In economically developed nations, the challenges are more likely to focus on issues of non-growth: the stabilization and reduction of population due to low birth rates, the economic and societal adaptations driven by these demographic shifts, and the exploration of policies to effectively incentivize changes to the consumerist growth-oriented economy.

While precise prediction of future demographic trends is not possible, it does seem likely that the pattern of sustained low birth rates will continue in developed nations. Already we see evidence that in countries where there is a higher standard of living and where public services are widely available – including education, health, and employment opportunities – many young adults are likely to delay or decline the parenting-choice resulting in a smaller youth cohort.

The smaller youth cohort under age 15 yrs will be reinforced over time as each subsequent smaller generation of children grows to adulthood – with many of them also likely to defer or decline the parenting-choice. The other major demographic shift is with the elderly cohort over age 65 yrs which has increased, as life expectancies have continued to extend. There will be a compounding of three demographic dimensions – a smaller youth cohort due to sustained lower birth-rates, the fewer young adult working-age cohort, and a larger elderly cohort due to longer average life expectancy. Together these demographic shifts will in coming years create huge impacts on many social and economic aspects of life in developed nations. 

The other critical factor is the pattern of extreme consumerism which has come to be regarded as an essential condition of growth-based economies of developed nations. It is widely understood that the consumerist economy generates levels of environmental degradation – unsustainable both for its local effects and especially for its cumulative global impacts. Here the challenge is to identify a range of new innovative public and private policies which can foster consumer-choice change – whereby individuals voluntarily choose to refrain from expending “excess resources” not needed for their personal and familial sustenance.

The challenge for policy makers in each nation will be to look ahead – to explore how best to adapt to the paradigm of declining national populations that are choosing to moderate their consumerist pattern. We need to understand more about the dynamic forces – social, economic, and political – in order to effectively respond to these coming changes: 

  • How can we best accommodate the change to our traditional demographic structures?
  • What broad national policies can begin to alter individual choices to consume less?

In a setting of self-governance where the expressed choices of the electorate will determine whether policy proposals are viable, discovering effective ways to achieve these challenges is vital to our collective future.

Those who have a favorable view of the prospect of reduced population growth and moderating consumerist patterns will already be convinced of the array of environmental and sustainability advantages of these developments. But our success in bringing about this new reality will depend upon a more complete understanding – an insightful view of human nature and how to motivate individuals to voluntarily choose to live day-to-day with more sensitivity to our global environmental limitations. It is critical that we identify policies to adapt and to optimize our collective response to these demographic, economic, and environmental challenges of the 21st century.

Reference Data: Population Trends and Projections

The following baseline data for a cross-section of ten developed nations convey the pattern of national birth-rates and national total population growth-rates for 2021. These variable demographic metrics – toward a smaller youth cohort and a larger elderly cohort – raise a wide range of issues regarding environmental, macro-economic, and individual consumption impacts. The unique culture and prevailing attitudes of each of these nations must be considered as policies are developed to adapt and optimize these recent developments toward population stabilization and population reduction.


2023 Endowment GrantsPriority, Duration, Number, Scale, Application Timeline

  • Project grants will involve in-depth policy exploration as set forth in our Funding Priorities.
  • Duration. Major project grants may extend 2 to 4 years.
  • Number. There will be at least five grant awards – but not more than eight.
  • Scale. The funding level of major grants will be from $200 thousand to $1 million. At least 3 grants will be awarded in the upper level of the funding range. Smaller grants will range from $50 thousand.
  • Application Timeline. April 10, 2023 earliest date to submit first step Expression-of-Interest (EOI). The last submission date for completed EOI is June 1, 2023.


For more Information on the GAIA Foundation Endowment Grants:

Grant Funding Priorities – discusses three essential priority components – the problem-set, change-incentives, strategy-for-adoptability – for a project proposal.

Grant Life Cycle – summarizes the Timelines and Due Dates; the Project Deliverables; and the Steps in the Application.

Application Instructions – describes the Project Review sequence, the Steps in the Application and How to Apply for a Grant.


.We welcome your questions, suggestions, and your words of support for our initiative to become more aware of issues of human population and balance with our planet earth