I just read a very interesting article in The Economist about population growth. Half the world is at replacement rate now and sometime between 2020 and 2050 the world will drop below replacement rate. True, this may be too little too late, but I prefer to see it as steps in the right direction. But I'm not sure it's all on purpose.
Our unbridled population growth has brought about some things that will kill us. Not only poverty and hunger, but toxins that result from our industrial "progress," hatred brought on by our politics, and the changes in our weather, might contribute to our population size.
People with money and education tend to have smaller families and therefore continue their wealth. People without money and education tend to have larger families and therefore continue their poverty. Perhaps people are catching on that fewer children = more wealth. But that's not the only thing going on, I'm afraid. (I'm going to try not to talk about China, which takes the decision away from individuals when it comes to having smaller families.)
Remember Silent Spring? Dioxins mess with the fertility of animals and we are animals. Dioxins don't go away. They are a byproduct of our "civilization." They are human-made powerful bits (chemicals) that cause cancer, birth defects, and infertility. Maybe we're just killing ourselves off.
Then there are some new viruses to be afraid of. H1N1 (Hiney or Swine) flu and in fact, all viruses tend to be more fatal in children who haven't had time to build up immunities, and people who are frail. The bird flu promises to be a pandemic in the waiting. Add in some misguided souls who think god wants them to manufacture new strains of small pox or anthrax and cut it loose and we have to admit that there's a reasonable chance that a good old-fashioned plague will prune the population right down.
Global warming will do it's bit as well. Increases in weird weather such as hurricane, tsunami, mega storms, will whittle away at population, either directly or indirectly as it affects our ability to feed ourselves.
This doesn't mean we should forget about slowing population growth. We still need to educate the world about how to have fewer children and why to have fewer children. We still need to counteract the idea that having lots of children is somehow god's will. If you want a huge family, there are children waiting to be adopted - go ahead have a huge family. But do it responsibly.
What I'm saying is that the decisions we make today will change the way population is controlled tomorrow. Maybe we should have realized this a few generations back, but shoulds don't get us anywhere, so we need to do it now. We control the birthrate, or the consequences will control population rate for us.