Population and the Planet: The Big Picture
Earth Overshoot Founder and Executive Director Terry Spahr recently contributed an article to Haverford Magazine, describing his evolution from executive to activist, what he learned from producing a big-budget documentary and the vital importance of thinking critically.
"We have an instinctive aversion to discussing unsustainable population growth because it can be fraught with emotions across the cultural, political, religious and economic spectrums. But it is a conversation we must have to ensure the future of humanity."
A Review of "Planet of the Humans": Michael Moore's Controversial New Environmental Documentary:
For all of us cloistered during the pandemic crisis, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Michael Moore has just released a new documentary, Planet of the Humans. The film, which can be seen now free on YouTube takes a harsh look at how the environmental movement has lost its way by promoting renewable energy, including biomass, solar panels and windmills, as the solution to our environmental emergencies despite their unsustainable reliance on forests, ores, minerals and fossil energy to produce them.
“We have ignored the warnings, and instead all sorts of so-called leaders have steered us away from the real solutions that might save us,” says Moore, who holds the all-time box office record for documentaries. “This movie takes no prisoners and exposes the truth about how we have been led astray in the fight to save the planet, to the point where if we don’t reverse course right now, events like the current pandemic will become numerous, devastating and insurmountable. The feel-good experience of this movie is that we actually have the smarts and the will to not let this happen – but only if we immediately launch a new environmental uprising.”
Jeff Gibbs, the writer/producer/director of Planet of the Humans, believes that “we are losing the battle to stop climate change because we are following environmental leaders, many of whom are well-intentioned, but who’ve sold out the green movement to wealthy interests and corporate America.” The film attempts to raise awareness of the futility of relying on techno-fixes and band-aids championed as the “environmental movement"in the midst of a human-caused extinction event. “It’s too little, too late,” says Gibbs. “Removed from the debate is the only thing that might save us: getting a grip on our out-of-control human presence and consumption. Why is this not the issue? Because that would be bad for profits, bad for business.”
Earth Overshoot supports the filmmakers behind Planet of the Humans and 2019's Anthropocene that attempt to shift the focus of our global environmental emergencies from a singular symptom like climate change to the underlying source of the problem - ecological overshoot. We simply have a planet whose resources can only support a fraction of the current global population (see Terry Spahr’s blog on the new book “Planet of 3 Billion”). Our goal is to build on the work of these ambitious filmmakers with the documentary, 8 Billion Angels by not only telling the truth about our human impact crisis, but also offering practical, proven and positive solutions that will renew and revitalize our environmental movement.
MAKING THE CASE FOR A GLOBAL SUSTAINABLE POPULATION: 8 BILLION ANGELS WOWS AUDIENCES AT TWO FILM FESTIVALS
The coronavirus pandemic pushed back the anticipated North American theatrical release of 8 Billion Angels (8BA) this spring but not before audiences at two fantastic film festivals got a sneak peek. In February, at the Transitions Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia a full theatre of festival-goers watched 8 Billion Angels to see how our human impact crisis is affecting people around the world and to learn what can be done to solve it. As one of the world’s leading festivals explicitly focused on the grand challenges of our time, and the solutions to those challenges, Transitions provided the perfect setting for 8BA. Michael Bayliss, Communications Manager of Sustainable Australia introduced the film saying, “it is more important than ever that population advocacy groups can share a message of hope and empowerment that can bring people together.” Among those in the audience were Sustainable Australia Victorian Senator Clifford Hayes and his chief of staff Kelvin Thomson who is a former Labor MP and an outspoken population activist. Sustainable Australia is an independent community party with a positive plan for an economically, environmentally and socially sustainable Australia. They believe in an evidence-based approach to policy - not a left or right ideology.
In March, the One Earth Film Festival brought 8 Billion Angels to audiences in downtown Chicago and suburban Barrington, Illinois, serving as a reunion of sorts for Director Victor Velle, Cinematographer Jake Mitchell and Producers Katya Alexander and Terry Spahr. The documentary’s production team answered questions from the enthusiastic Chicago audience about the challenges of responsibly documenting unsustainable population growth and how individuals can have the greatest impact to fix our environmental emergencies. During the post-screening Q&A, Spahr described the challenges of demonstrating the outsized impact that the developed world's consumption levels have on the environmental crises while drawing attention to the social, health and economic benefits of reducing population size around the developing world. He also discussed the fear some had that broaching the topic of unsustainable population growth would provoke defensiveness or dismissiveness among viewers but that the vast majority of audience members have been appreciative, hopeful and energized after seeing the film. One key reason for this, he surmised is that the film takes a thoughtful, science-based approach and offers practical and proven solutions to the problem.
The national rollout of 8 Billion Angels is tentatively scheduled for this Fall. Among the plans are an exciting week of special filmmaker and guest speaker events in both New York and Los Angeles followed by theatrical engagements in more than 50 cities. If you would like to have 8 Billion Angels screened in your community, contact us here.
Earth Overshoot Expands Its REACH: Bring Us To a Community Near You
REACH (Real Education About Climate & Humanity) is Earth Overshoot's program designed to educate and empower students, professional, social and civic associations, and conference attendees to take the steps that have been scientifically-proven to heal the planet and provide the best chance for global peace, prosperity and health. The project is spearheaded by Executive Director Terry Spahr and features movie screenings, moderated discussion groups, press outreach, and speaking engagements and furthers the organization's mission to put real sustainability at the center of all private and public decision-making. The program recently received a big boost in the form of a grant to expand its reach geographically and through enhanced educational materials.
“We are proud to receive such generous foundation support as a vote of confidence for our education initiatives that further a better quality of life,” said Earth Overshoot Executive Director, Terry Spahr.
If you would like to employ REACH in your community, find out more here.
What Compelled a Real Estate Executive to Produce a Film on Overpopulation?
Terry Spahr never fancied himself a filmmaker, and even now, with his first documentary on its way to film festivals and screenings, he has no plans to continue making movies.
But Spahr says his message was too vast and too vital to take any other form. That’s why, in 2016, he left his 20-year career in real estate and devoted himself to creating 8 Billion Angels.
With Spahr as executive producer, the documentary lays out the problem lurking behind Earth’s greatest environmental woes, from climate change to ocean acidification, deforestation to mass extinctions, rising seas to polluted air. It’s a problem people don’t like to talk about: the sheer number of us.
Read more here about how tackling our population problem offers our best hope for real sustainability: https://thepenngazette.com/is-our-planet-too-crowded/
It's World Population Day
World Population Day 2019 is observed on July 11 and is meant to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues. Although it has been around for more than 30 years, World Population Day has done little to inspire enough action to slow down our skyrocketing global population. Since its start in 1989, the world’s population has rocketed past 5 billion and is projected by the United Nations to reach 10 billion by 2050.
So what good is World Population Day?
For those of us in the second half of life, the changes are evident. There have been massive improvements for humanity in our health, lifespans, human rights, and standards of living. At the same time, there have been irrefutable side effects and unintended consequences of this increased human development and prosperity.
We have strip-mined the topsoils, decimated the fisheries, leveled the forests, drained our rivers, lakes and aquifers, melted the glaciers, polluted every corner of the globe, and exterminated untold numbers of species in pursuit of economic growth and a better life.
Because these changes appear gradually over the course of a lifetime, we are able to just sit there and ignore them, but from the perspective of human history and geologic time these changes are far more dramatic and instantaneous. For the youngest generation, we run the risk of having today’s problems be considered the acceptable norm: high housing costs, overcrowded schools and cities, traffic jams, smog and record heat waves, beach closures from pollution runoff, campsite lotteries, loss of green space, algae blooms, illegal poaching and fish catch limits.
But if we are at this point today, what will their world look like when they reach their midlife, in 2050? The prospects are not heartening when you consider:
- 2 billion more people and 20 billion more farm animals will live on the planet, all consuming land and resources for their sustenance and emitting wastes far faster than the earth can absorb.
- 25 million kilometers more roads, enough to circle the earth’s surface 600 times, will cut through our neighborhoods, destroy more animal habitats, and carry vehicles that pollute our land, air and waterways.
- There will be double the square footage of buildings covering the Earth than there is today, depleting and destroying more natural resources and encroaching on more animal habitats.
Are we willing to let this become the status quo for those born at mid-century? An earth largely devoid of nature and severely out of balance with humanity’s growth?
It doesn’t have to be. There are many we can do right now to prevent it. It’s as simple as:
- lending your support, financially and vocally, to individuals and organizations that promote smaller families through the education of girls, women’s empowerment and family planning;
- talking to your friends, colleagues, neighbors and family about reducing population as the #1 solution to fix climate change and all of our long term environmental emergencies;
- contacting political leadership to demand they prioritize measures that slow population growth to achieve the huge environmental, economic, social and health benefits that can benefit all of us on the planet.
8 BILLION ANGELS INSPIRES 'CITY CHANGERS' AT 2019 URBAN FUTURE GLOBAL CONFERENCE
Terry Spahr Screens Documentary at European Sustainability Gathering
While most of us in the United States were gearing up for the Memorial Day weekend, Earth Overshoot Executive Director Terry Spahr was screening his documentary, 8 Billion Angels, for some of the 2,500 “CityChangers” from 400 cities around the world attending the Urban Future Global Conference (UFGC) in Oslo, Norway. The event, which launched in 2014, is Europe’s largest event for sustainable cities and emphasizes its belief that the best hope for solving urban challenges are people, not technology, driving positive change.
After screening 8 Billion Angels at the Vega Scene theater, Spahr took part in a filmmaker Q&A, during which he shared his inspiration for making the documentary, and stressed the need for "CityChangers" to factor in population when formulating emission-reduction strategies. The audience responded with questions about the role of “efficiencies” in achieving sustainability, as well as praise for the film's emphasis on family planning, girls education and women’s empowerment.
“Innovative and forward-thinking people are putting their heart and energy into projects to make our cities better places to live in - for us and for future generations. Let’s listen to them, share their ideas and start acting,” said Gerald Babel-Sutter, Founder and CEO of the UFGC.
UFGC was created to foster the exchange of ideas between cities, to establish a set of best practices and to spur innovation, cooperation and competition. Some of the more interesting titles of conference sessions included, “We’re so fu**ing late: status of our CO2 reduction efforts”; “Scrap the chatter: Getting the job done!” and “Cutting emissions: leadership makes the difference.”
“One of the concepts that I tried to help the CityChangers present understand,” said Spahr, “is that efficiencies and the technologies that create them can only go so far and oftentime result in greater growth into and depletion of the natural reserves that sustain us as a planet. For instance, although fuel-efficient cars burn less gasoline per mile, the lower cost at the pump tends to encourage extra driving. There’s also an indirect rebound effect as drivers use the money they save on gasoline to buy other things that cause more material and resource extraction and produce other greenhouse emissions, like new electronic gadgets or vacation trips on fuel-burning planes."
Earth Overshoot Tackles the Population Taboo
Earth Overshoot Executive Director Terry Spahr delivered a practical guide to an audience of scientists, environmental activists, sustainability students and others attending the Having Kids Forum, "Tackling the Population Taboo: Creating a sustainable Future for Children" at the George Washington University in April.
Terry’s presentation touched on practical steps that the audience could leverage to mainstream and market the message that the single greatest carbon offsetting strategy available to individuals and countries to stop climate change is promoting small families. Messages that are plain, personal, and proactive are the most successful when trying to affect social change and achieving a sustainable lifestyle.
Many countries have done marvelous jobs at reducing birthrates all in the context of human rights (see graph below), all voluntarily with intentional campaigns that improved women’s and children’s health, increased financial security, expanded economic and educational opportunities. This win-win-win approach eclipses any other conservation initiatives and has shown the greatest impact in improving lives and healing nature.