The models of production and consumption are intertwined.
In 1861, a Dr Gattling was very sickened by seeing dead and wounded and invented the machine gun. with the idea that by using machines fewer soldiers would be needed to create the same amount of fire power, thus fewer soldiers would be on the battle field to get injured and killed. Thus, his reasoning went, the machine would save lives.
Of course, what he failed to appreciate was that the military did not think of spraying the same number of bullets with fewer men, they thought of spraying more bullets with the same number of men. Thus, the fine Dr Gatlling ended up killing and maiming more soldiers than before.
The problems of this earth are caused less by over population than by over consumption. We have more obese people than starving people. Economics are based on driving up consumption and production rather than producing "enough".
In fact, people don't eat enough to keep the agricultural machine happy and ways are found to increase cinsumption. Much of the food on the planet is wasted in producing "higher value" products. Grains and legumes (themselves great foods) go into feedlots to produce meat, to distilleries to make alcohol for human and vehicle consumption. For every food unit that goes in, only a small fraction comes out.
That just looks at food, but the same applies almost everywhere. The drive for growth sees huge increases in consumption in all sectors: in the last 100 years in the West we've seen average house sizes increase dramatically (while family sizes decrease); water use has gone from a few gallons per person per day to hundreds of gallons per person per day; air travel is an everyday occurrence, etc etc...
It might seem reasonable to try reducing consumption by reducing population. In truth though, that will not fix the problem any more than Gattling did with his machine. All we will see is that consumption continues to grow as the small number of people become more consumptive to keep the corporate growth machine happy.
It is pointless trying to address population numbers, etc etc unless the whole economic foundation is corrected first.
Written in October 2008