How Many People Can the World Support?
An Overview: Next Year's People (Next Year's Children?): Perhaps using a lens of looking at what kind of world next year's babies will enter. (pick a year along the continuum.) Next year (any next year) is good because it has a nominal crystal ball effect, and can be based on demographic and economic trends well in place now. (see Population Reference Bureau link below.)
If "Next Year's People" or "Next Year's Children" is approx. 77 million, the number of babies projected to be born, then do a global demographic profile of where each of those kids will land, what kind of status, opportunity, poverty, educational potential, longevity, mortality, the pantheon that awaits. Mark when the "people come out" (Annie Dillard) and paint their landscape.
But there is a paradox:
The Empty Cradle (Full Pockets): The nations most able to produce kids are the ones least likely to do so. The pporest nations have the highest fertility and worse education and opportunity.
The Full Cradle (Empty Pockets): The nations least able to produce and care for kids are the ones most likely to do so. Witness the aging populations of Japan, western Europe nation, even the U.S. If not for immigration the U.S. population would be aging.
What Chance for Change?: Is it possible to reduce the fertility in the places where there is most fertility and least opportunity? Is it desirable to increase fertility in nations least likely to produce babies? France already has, e.g. Bob Engleman says (see cite of book MORE below and Salon interview) the key to hope is education of women and to give them reproductive choice instead of having it imposed on them. Also, what role for reigning in consumption? How much stuff is too much? (See The Limits to Growth: 30 Year Update, link below.)
A Salon Interview (subscription required): Do We Need Population Control?
The Global Baby Bust: Phillip Longman Article in Foreign Affairs: The Global Baby Bust
UN Population Report: The UN Population Fund has released its 2008 update on the state of world population.