Population control is not a new idea, but it has recently been discussed in the context of the environment, some articles with tact and some not. China’s one child policy was instituted in 1979 to address social, economical and environmental issues. While the policies of the Chinese government were not because they were green, and I don’t condone them, they illustrate the reality of scarce resources. Because of the population density, more people led to poverty, poor living conditions, disease and famine. There simply were not enough resources in some areas to sustain the population. Fortunately, the world is not to the point where we cannot sustain its current population. However, we may be soon.
One article with good coverage of some of these issues is in a recent Scientific American Earth 3.0. The article discusses Malthusian limits, where population growth outpace the growth in agriculture. Since the Industrial Revolution, where production of all types increased, world population has exploded. Most people are aware of issues caused by increased energy consumption, like climate change. Climate change can have various effects on agricultural output, changing weather patterns make areas previously suitable to grow crops completely desolate. Many people are also aware of fresh water issues, especially if you live somewhere like Australia. Fewer people are aware that peak phosphorus could limit fertilizer production, severely reducing agricultural output.
There is not a question of if these issues will limit the growth of the population, it is a matter of when they will limit growth. Whether population control is mandated and enforced or not, environmental factors will limit the population. If sustainable practices are adopted, and resources are used wisely, maybe we can avoid another Malthusian catastrophe.