NEW YORK, October 27 (C-FAM) – On Monday the global population will cross the 7 billion threshold, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). According to articles published over the last few days by many media outlets, this occasion is cause for grave concern and highlights the necessity of increased “family planning” services to curb population growth.

Others, however, counter that this population-control alarmism is unfounded. Citing the below-replacement fertility levels that prevail in an increasing number of countries, they insist the looming demographic problem isn’t overpopulation. Instead, if current trends continue, the global community will suffer from societies blighted by rapidly shrinking populations and the presence of far too few young people.

In an editorial published by the Financial Times, UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin warned that “the parts of the world that account for less than one fifth of global economic output will see 73 per cent of the world’s expected population increase by 2050.” Osotimehin advocates for an expansion of “rights-based government efforts to deal with population growth in developing countries.” He writes, “This must include, of course, the right to freely decide the number and spacing of one’s children. This is the best way forward for everyone, in developed and developing countries alike.”

Other prominent media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, also published alarmist articles pegged to UNFPA’s “7 billion” landmark. Writing in the New York Times, Joel Cohen, the head of the Laboratory of Populations at Rockefeller University and Columbia University, admits that the rate of increase in the global population has already declined sharply, that there’s little evidence supporting dire predictions that the world faces imminent mass starvation or economic collapse courtesy of overpopulation, and that the world is about to experience a “coming revolution in aging” as a consequence of current demographic trends.

Nonetheless, Cohen posits that the combination of too many households and too much consumption threatens the planet’s longer-term economic and ecological well-being and he advocates increased use of contraceptives as one of the remedies for this perceived problem. Comments Cohen, “For some in the West, the greatest challenge — because it is the least visible — is to shake off, at last, the view that large and growing numbers of people represent power and prosperity.”

While population-control perspectives predominated in many media reports, some publications provided opposing perspectives. Reuters, for example, warned that the coming demographic problem is underpopulation, not overpopulation. Writing in Foreign Policy magazine, Phillip Longman, author of The Empty Cradle: Why Falling Birthrates Threaten World Prosperity and What to Do About It, utilized the U.N.’s own demographic data to make a similar case that “a gray tsunami will be sweeping the planet.”

A range of policies could be instituted to help societies “at least partially adjust to the tidal shift in global demographics,” Longman remarks. “But don’t count on it. To make such sweeping changes would require a widespread understanding of the century’s great paradox: The planet may be bursting, but most of this new population is made up of people who have already been born. So get ready for a planet that’s a whole lot more crowded — with old people.”

Reprinted with permission from c-fam.org