Recently, however, another kind of demographic shift has been observed.
Where women have had access to education and media, birth rates have showed significant declines even when income levels had not increased.
Also, modern Malthusians such as Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown and the happy fun guys that called themselves the Club of Rome have added a wrinkle, claiming that subsistence can keep ahead of population growth at the cost of an unsustainable level of envronmental harm.
Seven billion people is a lot of people, no doubt about it. The neo-Malthusian view seems reasonable, especially when fortified by such statistics as these (published by the Population Institute): These charts show one of the most troubling trends in world demographics.
In Brazil, for example, the situation became so acute that squatters have been massacred for occupying remote, unused areas of privately-held ranches.
A large, organized movement has grown around the peasants' demand simply to be allowed to use land that others don't feel like using, just now.
and originator of the perception of economics as "the dismal science." Malthus reasoned that human population tends to grow at a geometrical rate, while our ability to prooduce subsistence increases at a merely arithmetical rate and so we find ourselves in an ever-deepening spiral of suffering caused by overpopulation.
In Malthus's view this process could only be slowed by the "preventive check" of decreased fertility (presumably attained through zealous spiritual devotion) or, the "positive check" of increased mortality.
In an economy where more energy and resources are spent in taking pictures of children than are used to feed children in the rest of the world, such advice is preposterous.
It is true that the developing world cannot raise its standard of living to "Western" standards, using the same wasteful methods, without causing horrible damage to the natural environment.