Reading both arguments in tandem makes for a thought-provoking exercise. As a distinct non-expert, the one thing I’ll say about the general issue is this: I do think that honing in too exclusively on “the population problem” can be problematic. That’s not what Walker is doing at all, and he makes many good arguments for continuing efforts to reign in population growth. But it can be an easy way to for many to wipe away complex problems with a handy mantra — “There’s too many people.” Or, “If there weren’t so many people, we wouldn’t have problem X.”
I think that it gives folks a sense of having found a solution to many seemingly unsolvable problems — World hunger? Too many people to feed. Environmental degradation? Too many people consuming resources. Climate change? Too many people driving cars and emitting carbon. Et al.
Note that I’m not saying I don’t consider population growth a problem or a challenge — it certainly makes solving the quandary of how to live sustainably on a planet with finite resources much more improbable (and that’s an understatement). But lingering on the issue, I think, can obscure pragmatism: I think family planning and education efforts in the poorer parts of the world are a great thing, and efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancies should be lauded (and better-funded). But the biggest threats to our planet do seem to be our habits of consumption, and overpopulation is a dangerous threat multiplier. The truly scary prospect is those 2 billion new people added to the population by 2050 wanting to live and consume in the same manner Americans do now.
And, pragmatically speaking (I can’t imagine any way population-reducing efforts like family planning or education could be effective enough in such fast-growing nations as Somalia or Afghanistan to prevent that projected growth, but I could be wrong), there’s most likely going to be 9 billion people sharing the world in the course of a couple generations. So the biggest impact we can arguably have is setting a precedent of how to consume goods and energy in a sustainable fashion, and by helping to steer developing nations towards less destructive consumption habits in the first place. How to do this, of course, beckons yet another controversial debate.
We should indeed continue education initiatives and family planning efforts, and continue to carefully examine population issues — our still-expanding population is far from a myth. But we’ve also got to assume there will be some 9 billion people sharing earth’s resources within 40 years, and start the difficult task of planning accordingly — and hopefully, sustainably.