Touchy subject, of course. Not personally suggesting that government should limit growth; rather, there is overwhelming evidence that we are overextending Earth's capacity. The question I believe should be asked, are there ways to limit growth that also don't limit people's personal rights - in other words, incentivizing? One example, educating women has been shown to reduce birth rate. However, population growth isn't the only problem. Over-consumption in developed countries is equally culpable. http://bit.ly/2by3Vid
Most of it revolves around women having equal rights and opportunities. If they are forced into marriage and aren't given an education, they are much more likely to have kids when they themselves are children. And let's not equate education with intelligence. But women who have more education have fewer kids.
There are plenty of consumption metrics out there. And I would say that over-consumption would be equated with anything beyond what is sustainable long-term or which couldn't be supported if everyone on the planet partook in a similar lifestyle. For instance, there is no way that we can keep consuming old-growth timber sourced from the Amazon forever. It simply won't be there at some point. And if everyone consumed like those in developed countries, then we would need more resources than actually exist on this planet. There are different hypotheses about how many people this planet can support and I think much of it has to do with sustainability. If we're talking about how many people in developed countries can this world support is different than how many starving people on this planet can it support. The poorest 20% of the world consumes just 1% of resources. For example, wood consumption:
A brand new article, "Earth Overshoot Day Arrives Earlier Than Ever," in National Geographic about how our resource use is unsustainable. http://bit.ly/2aGJVP7
And another article from NPR about the moral dilemma of bringing children into a world with troubling climate change ahead. http://n.pr/2b2vOO8
Brooke: Having a child is certainly a very optimistic act, perhaps now more ever. It's difficult to put so much trust in the future. And while I recognize that climate change is a current problem as well as a future problem, the tricky thing about the future is that it's impossible to forecast accurately. I want to be optimistic that we'll invent our way out of an apocalyptic future.
Another aspect of the conversation is that multicellular organisms (let alone organisms with capacity for such intelligence as humans and some other Earth animals) seem to be a rare occurrence in the universe - see Radiolab's episode 'Cellmates'. I really wish I could live to see how evolution plays out with the human species. I think it would be a shame to put a cork on it (though admittedly we are nowhere near
As a side-note remark about this article in particular: the author advocates that only those people with a strong desire to have a child should procreate. That could, after a few generations, end up creating a population of humans that mostly have a strong desire for children, thereby exacerbating overpopulation once again (selecting for baby-crazed humans).
All-in-all I think that limiting family size along with extreme reduction in fossil-fuel use and consumerism, plus proper earth-education for every child might be the best road. Call me an optimist, and a moderate as ever.
I don't think anyone (or me) is advocating that everyone should stop having kids. Rather, I think there should be a plan in place to encourage sustainability. We as a country - as a planet - are not acting in our own self interest. We are simply acting like every other species on the planet which procreates until the environment can't sustain them anymore, or a disease outbreak significantly reduces the population, or there is a fight over resources and some individuals starve. If we are so advanced as a species, then we should be having this conversation. We shouldn't be committing the same mistakes as every other species on the planet. We should use that neo-cortex and look ahead. Unfortunately, we suffer from myopic fog: we forget what has happened in the past (see below). What's the solution for such animalistic and unsustainable behavior - government regulation in my opinion and education. And I do think there should be a conversation about why people have 8 kids - especially in developed countries. At the very least, we should not encourage it. Maybe we should be encouraging people to have fewer kids (rather than giving tax breaks for more kids), and we should offer incentives to have them later in life - which would decrease the population growth rate. What's the magic number? I suppose a number which is sustainable. What's sustainable? See previous posts. Lastly, by every metric, we as a species are annihilating the planet. We need to regulate our use of the planet and its resources or there are only going to be more and more problems which are going to take away so many more freedoms than what I'm advocating. The number of record heat waves, droughts, floods, wildfires, rising waters, loss of ecosystem services (e.g., bee pollination) is going to tax us as a species like nothing before. Why wait until it's too late? Of course, as you mentioned, this isn't only about reproduction. It's also about consumption.