I think there are two essential questions involved here:
1)Whether overpopulation is seriously such a huge problem.
2)If it is not, why is such a big fuss made about it.
Firstly I feel that overpopulation is not a very major problem. Malthus theory of population growing in geometric progression and food growing in arithemetic progression has been experimentally proven wrong for centuries now. The reasons are very simple, and anyone who is familiar with Voltaire's prey-predator equations knows them. I wouldnt like to go into them here but the basic idea is that there is a time delay factor involved. Anyway, whatever the mathematics I would like to emphasize that we have not seen geometric growth of population and arithemtic growth of food . Food production has kept up with the population. So the first thing that is required is the rejection of the Malthus theory.
The second thing that is required is to realise that the essential problem here is the equitable distribution of resources. One one scale this is a problem within a country. A few people are very rich, and hog resources and this is what creates a shortage.
On a second more serious scale this is a world-wide problem. The first world is worried about the population of the third world but it is the first world which controls the majority of the world's resources. Thus here again you have a situation where a very very small portion of the world controls a huge portion of the available resources. I feel that the least the first world can do under the circumstances is to avoid talking about population problems in the third world.
A final point I wish to make here is this. If we must speak of population, what we must speak of is population density not population in absolute terms. The population density of Europe is higher than that of India. So I dont see the justification of pressurizing India to control its population.
Finally let me briefly summarize my arguments:
1)I said that that the Malthusian theory has been proven experimentally wrong, so the resource problem is not as serious as it is made out to be.
2)If there is an apparent shortage of resources it is because of a non-equitable distribution and not because of any inherent shortage in resources.
3)Finally The first world controls most of the world's resources and the population density in Europe is one of the highest in the world.Therefore it is absolutely unjustifiable for the first world to talk about population problems.
I think all this brings up a question with sinister implications. If population is not such a serious problem why is such a big deal made of it. The answer seems to be clear. Since the primary problem is one of non-equitable resource distribution, people/countries who control a disproportional share are insecure. "It is essential to ask the poor to control their population because if they dont they will soon begin to ask for their rights"- and what would the rich do then?
A brief reply to hramyaegr's article below. If you plot thedata given below the first thing to notice is that population growth picked up around 1800. It would be naive to base a law of geometric growth of population on this data because there was a clear sociological factor that caused high population growth in the 19th and 20th century-The Industrial Revolution. Industrial capitalism requires a large amount of labour and this is what leads to large population growth. It is ironical that it is the capitalists who later get worried about overpopulation.
Secondly there is this small point about non-equitable distribution of resources which hramyaegr seems to have completely overlooked.
Finally as rfc1394 points out high population growth in the Third World is often a result of low life expectancy. So equitable distribution of resources would be an immediate cure for the population problem.