From January 2009 (and still on target):
Through Thomas Malthus, The Limits to Growth, even the book of Genesis — Be fruitful and multiply — learned commentators through history have considered the population challenge. Do we grow or do we stabilize? What controls do we have over our population? How many people can the earth support? How we answer these questions may have more to do with our long-range prospects than any other factor.
The New York Times Science section is one place where there are discussions on this topic. The Dot Earth blog by Andrew Revkin focuses on this in a series of articles that provide thoughtful commentary. My inclination has always been that there was a natural leveling of the population over time, given trends in birth control, more opportunities for women to make their own choices in careers and other personal decisions, and in dissemination of information about family planning. But after some reading on this topic, I am wondering if the overall demographic facts are simply weighted too heavily towards an ongoing and unmitigated growth for the foreseeable future.
My daughter was born in 1986 on the exact day the UN announced that the earth had 5 billion people. The estimates now are that there are 6.7 billion people. That surely gives no indication of a leveling off. People use resources, they need food, they create waste. And they create great ideas that help us manage all of those challenges.
No easy answers in this post but this clearly is a headline topic for The Long News.