End of story? For a variety of reasons, not quite. Population is not a contrasting force to consumption but something very close to its parent. Alone, each of us has no significant impact on the planet, even when our collective behavior overwhelms its natural processes. Historically, population has grown fastest when per capita consumption is modest. Later, consumption tends to explode on the base of a population that is large, but it is by then growing more slowly. Throughout the 19th century, the . population grew at rates typical of Africa today. That century of rapid growth helped to make 21st-century America (with 307 million people now) a consumption behemoth.
Population dynamics can be shaped by policies. But these policies must strengthen, rather than weaken, fundamental human rights and freedoms. Population dynamics are the cumulative result of individual choices and opportunities, and they are best addressed by enlarging these choices and opportunities – especially those related to sexual and reproductive health and rights. When couples can freely decide the number, timing and spacing of their children, evidence shows more children survive and thrive, and overall fertility levels trend downward.