7 billion and counting: Should the world adopt a ‘one-child’ policy?

The world population has hit a whopping 7 billion, and researchers suggest it could reach 10 billion within the next century. On the one hand, this means we’re a great success — after all, the goal of any species is to expand and conquer. But, on the other hand, all that expansion means more mouths to feed, which requires more space and energy, which increases the demand on resources and the environment, perhaps too large a demand for Earth to support.
So Life’s Little Mysteries asks: How can we curb this growth? Should there be a global one-child policy, like the one enforced in China?
One child per family
In 1979, in response to two decades of rapid population growth the Chinese government announced a policy that limited each family to just one child (although there are exceptions). The worry was that if growth continued at such a pace, it would be a crushing burden to both society and the economy. [How Many People Can the World Support?]
In terms of limiting population growth, the policy was successful, cutting China’s population by an estimated 250 million to 300 million people, according to Chinese authorities. But this success came with a price. Reports of forced abortion and sterilization abound. And, because of a preference for male children in China, sex-selective abortions have skewed the country’s male-female birth ratio from the natural biological ratio of 105 to 100 to 121 to 100, resulting in millions more young men than women. Socially, the consequences range from mental health problems to kidnapping and trafficking women for marriage.
Social questions aside, does a global one-child policy make sense?
«I don’t think that’s a good idea, frankly,» said John Bongaarts, vice president of the Population Council, a global nonprofit and NGO. «First of all, nobody’s going to accept it. There’s been a massive outcry over the one-child policy in China as coercive, and there’s not a single person that I know that would support it. Plus, you don’t really want the fertility to decline to one child per woman, because you end up in the same problems as Japan has now, and nobody wants that.»