Population Films and Documentaries

Section
5. Reduce Population
Page
5.5

Dave Gardner is the perfect heretic: softly-spoken, mild-mannered, unflappable, and with a sense of humour, very hard to demonise and marginalise as ‘crazy’, ‘eccentric’, ‘dangerous’, ‘racist’, or ‘anti-people’. Heretics are, at best, dismissed, at worst, persecuted (e.g. see John Sinclair, Section 4.7), so his quiet manner shouldn’t let us underestimate his tenacity and courage over decades in the face of growthmania at its epicentre – the USA.

Dave established the splendid Growthbusters website – https://www.growthbusters.org/ –  alluded to in Section 1.1.5, and has been bravely tackling the Sisyphean task of rolling back the giant growth ‘boulder’ ever since. In 2011 he wrote and directed the excellent ‘Hooked on Growth’ and you can watch the trailer here: GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth Trailer – Bing video   which runs for just under three minutes, or view the full 54-minute documentary by going to the Growthbusters website and hiring it for $2.99 U.S., or purchasing it for $9.99 U.S.

Growthbusters summarise ‘Hooked on Growth’ thus:

“Water shortages, hunger, peak oil, species extinction, and even increasing depression are all symptoms of a deeper problem – addiction to unending growth in a world that has limits. ‘GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth’ goes way beyond prescribing Band-Aids to slow the bleeding. This film examines the cultural barriers that prevent us from reacting rationally to the evidence current levels of population and consumption are unsustainable.

“It asks why the population conversations are so difficult to have. Why it’s more important to our society to have economic growth than clean air. Why communities seek and subsidize growth even when it destroys quality of life and increases taxes.

“Our growth-centric system is broken. It’s not providing the happiness or the prosperity we seek. But that’s good news; it means a shift to a sustainable model will be good for us. We’ll be happier and more prosperous!

“Individual and public policy decisions today are informed by a powerful, pro-growth cultural bias. We worship at the Church of Growth Everlasting. Undeterred by the facts, we’re on a collision course powered by denial and the myth that growth brings prosperity. Before we can shift our civilization meaningfully, effectively, and substantially toward true sustainability, the world must be prepped. We must become self-aware and recognize the programming that keeps us hooked. GrowthBusters will do just that. We’ll hear from leading thinkers of our time – scientists, sociologists, economists – to help us separate fact from superstition.

Will we embrace it or go down fighting?

“From Las Vegas to Atlanta, Mexico City to Mumbai, the White House to the Vatican, GrowthBusters takes us on a whirlwind tour of growth mania. It’s Wild Kingdom with a twist: the cameras are turned on humanity as our own survival skills are examined. ‘GrowthBusters: Hooked on Growth’ looks into the psychology of denial and crowd behavior. It explores our obsession with urban and economic growth, and our reluctance to address overpopulation issues head-on. This documentary holds up a mirror, encouraging us to examine the beliefs and behaviors we must leave behind – and the values we need to embrace – so our children can survive and thrive.”

My spare notes on this first-class documentary, with minutes elapsed, follow for those who want assistance navigating the documentary, but I recommend you watch it from beginning to end – you won’t regret it:

4:54  It is “unAmerican to stop growth or talk about stopping growth”;

5:30  Embarrassingly, Australia’s ‘Baby Bonus’ is mentioned (see also Section 3.1);

6:30  Size matters to many people;

7:  Economic growth is the Holy Grail;

8:  World population;

8:40  “Greatest shortcoming of human race is the failure to understand the exponential function”, Al Bartlett, Emeritus Prof. Physics, University Colorado;

12:  I = PAT equation and Paul Ehrlich and the Club of Rome;

13:  Herman Daly: “We no longer live in an empty world”;

18:  Julian Simon, vocal critic of C of Rome and LTG: “Copper and oil come out of our minds” and “Humans are the ultimate resource”; human worship and infinite ingenuity and substitutability;

20:  Neo-classical Economics “fashioned” out of, and to support, growth, Chris Martenson;

22:  “Perpetual growth an absolute requirement of this economic system”, Chris Martenson;

27:  We ceased being citizens and became consumers;

31:  Dave Paxson, World Pop. Balance, good precis figures on pop. Growth: + 9,000 people an hour/200,000 a day; “How many people believe the area of arable land and topsoil increased in the last day to feed 200,000 additional people?”;

32:  Paul Ehrlich explains why we have to deal with both population and consumption;

33:  Lisa Hymas cites Oregon University findings that limiting family size is by far the greatest contribution someone can make for a sustainable future;

35:  Pop. projections: will not level off at 9 billion at around 2050; U.N. revised estimates say 10 billion + at 2100 and still growing;

37:  UN and env. orgs. need to be “emboldened” to say that current population cannot be sustained long-term, Dave Gardner;

38:  Centre for Biological Diversity;

39:  “Every other environmental problem is exacerbated by overpopulation”, Lisa Hymas;

40:  Suggested solutions;

44:  Dick Smith of Australia: “The god of capitalism, the god of growth, is a false god”;

45: Ross Gittins, Australian Economist and journalist (see Section 3.3); cost of growth goes to the public taxpayer, the benefits to business;

46:  Suggests that Dick Smith’s attempts to broach the topic in Australia have made headway; would like to think this is true, but despite his strenuous efforts, 10 years on I think he has been largely shutdown and marginalised;

49:  Raj Patel, the battle is for the human mind, what the human is: greedy, small and stunted, or “much more beautiful than this”;

49:  Result of Dave Gardner standing for local govt. election in Colorado Springs: 43% of the vote; a surprisingly good result, but not enough to be elected;

51:  Mike Nickerson: will our future be “a story of denial and disaster or a story of creativity and celebration?”;

52:  Dave Gardner says he’s loved in the local community; I sincerely hope this is so, but he must have received a torrent of abuse along the way.

‘Top 10’ Population Films

Growthbusters has also compiled a list of what they and their supporters voted to be the ‘top 10’ population films and documentaries (really they are just films and documentaries that address population in one way or another as the list is thin, with its being a taboo topic). Nonetheless, it’s a list well worth following-up for those wanting to go more deeply into the subject. Growthbusters’ list and summaries are as follows (thanks Growthbusters; #1 was their own ‘Hooked on Growth’):

#2: Mother: Caring for 7 Billion (2011)
This elegant documentary by Christophe Fauchere is a must for any list of films about overpopulation. It’s factual, sensitive, and well-made, but a little more PC than GrowthBusters. In some ways that’s a plus; in others not so much.
Currently available free at the producer’s website

#3: Soylent Green (1973) Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young, Chuck Connors, Joseph Cotten, Edward G. Robinson, Dick Van Patten

(TMDB.2017. So ylent Green – 1973)

This cult classic stars Charlton Heston as a police detective navigating a highly overpopulated world. The imagery of an overcrowded world in this film is intense. Meat is a rare, expensive, black-market delicacy. Food is rationed, and it doesn’t look too tasty. The dead are picked up every day by what look like garbage trucks and hauled off to… well, let’s not spoil the plot. If you haven’t seen this somewhat cheesy sci-fi romp, I recommend it. With each passing day I think the world imagined in Soylent Green is less and less far-fetched. Available on Amazon

#4: Idiocracy (2006) Luke Wilson

(Fanart .2007. Idiocracy)

This depressing comedy depicts a world in which irresponsible people outbreed the intelligent. Centuries of this phenomenon have resulted in a dim, oversexed dystopia.
Available on Amazon

#5: Critical Mass (2012)
This documentary by Mike Freedman centers on the work of Dr. John B. Calhoun at the National Institute of Mental Health in the U.S. between 1958 and 1983. Calhoun experimented with rats to explore changes in behavior as they were provided unlimited food and water, but not space. This launches an exploration of human population growth.
Available on Vimeo and 
Youtube

#6: Wall-E (2008)
Reader-Nominated. In a distant, but not so unrealistic, future where mankind has abandoned earth because it has become covered with trash from products sold by the powerful multi-national Buy N Large corporation, WALL-E, a garbage collecting robot, has been left to clean up the mess. Mesmerized with trinkets of Earth’s history and show tunes, WALL-E is alone on Earth except for a sprightly pet cockroach. One day, EVE, a sleek (and dangerous) reconnaissance robot, is sent to Earth to find proof that life is once again sustainable. WALL-E falls in love with EVE. There is much truth about the human race in this animated robot love story.
Available on AmazoniTunes and NetFlix(DVD only)

#7: Children of Men (2006) Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Michael Caine  

(CAFMP. 2018. Children of Men – 2006)

The world of 2027 has fallen into chaos on the heels of an infertility defect in the population. The world’s youngest citizen has just died at 18, and humankind is facing the likelihood of its own extinction. Set against a backdrop of London torn apart by violence and warring nationalistic sects, Children of Men follows a disillusioned ex-activist turned bureaucrat trying to protect a woman who has become miraculously pregnant.
Available on Vudu and Amazon

#8: Logan’s Run (1976) Michael York, Jenny Agutter
The idyllic society of 2274 figures out how to avoid the overpopulation problem. Everyone must be terminated when they reach age 30. As you might guess, Michael York explores other options.
Trailer
Available on Amazon

#9: ZPG (1972) Oliver Reed, Geraldine Chaplin

(Movieposter. 2014. ZPG – 1972)

In a very smoggy and overpopulated world sometime in the future, the Earth government has banned the birth of babies for 30 years. Substitute robot babies are supposed to satisfy the urge to raise children. This film follows a woman who succumbs to maternal instincts, gives birth and tries to hide that fact from friends and the citizens of her community. Probably a bit of a P.R. nightmare for the group, Zero Population Growth, which was quite active at the time (years later ZPG changed its name to Population Connection).
Available on Amazon and Netflix (DVD only)

#10: Should We Stop Worrying and Love the (Population) Bomb? (2013)
I added this short film at the last minute in order to round out our top ten. This GrowthBusters original was just released today, but it is climbing the charts.
Available on YouTube. You are free to show this video in the classroom, at presentations, on television, in theaters. It is to be freely used.”

In addition, although unable to be considered owing to being released well after this list, The Betrayal of Ignoring Human Overpopulation (2021) – The Betrayal of Ignoring Human Overpopulation – Bing video – could well be included, as producer Sofia Pineda Ochoa makes an impassioned plea in this 30-minute documentary for the addressing of population issues:

“Who are we betraying with our silence on overpopulation? It turns out, virtually everyone. We are betraying the most vulnerable humans. We are betraying women and children. We are betraying farmed animals and wild animals. And, as it turns out, we are betraying ourselves.”

Explore Other Reduce Population

5.1 Introduction

This was the top of Mt Everest in 2019. Even here, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overpopulation is a problem for ...

5.2 Total Ecological Footprint

In Section 2, ‘Consumption’, we displayed the global footprint of countries divided by population so as to concentrate upon consumption only. This was useful to highlight the predominance of consumption and overconsumption by the First World. But,...

5.3 Earth Overshoot Day, The Population Podcast, William Rees

William Rees is a terrific speaker: clear, concise, honest. The following podcast is one of my all-time favourites because it so crisply dissects the environmental problems of the world and logically lays out the foundations and process of Ecologi...

5.4 Scale

I have talked previously about the problem of sheer scale when dealing with environmental issues, and perhaps the greatest example of this is population. We seem to have difficulty coming to grips with any large numbers, anything bigger than, say,...

5.5 Population Films and Documentaries

Dave Gardner is the perfect heretic: softly-spoken, mild-mannered, unflappable, and with a sense of humour, very hard to demonise and marginalise as ‘crazy’, ‘eccentric’, ‘dangerous’, ‘racist’, or ‘anti-people’. Heretics are, at best, dismissed, a...

5.6 Population Projections and Biocapacity

One of the many ways in which a concern about population is shutdown is through the curious application of declining-growth-rate projections. Even before this spurious argument is applied, the glaring assumption is that current population is not a...

5.7 A Possible Target

As mentioned previously, global biocapacity was exceeded at around 3.7 billion people at 1970s technology and consumption levels, but this didn’t account for the needs of other creatures, so an actual sustainable level for all life would have to b...

5.8 The Ageing Population Bogeyman

If Growth is the god and the economy/capitalism the religion, then the human is nothing but a widget in the system whose sole role is to procreate, produce and consume. In such a mean and tortured belief system, those towards the start and end of ...

5.9 Population Case Study: Australia

I am wary of saying more about my home country as I have vowed to try to be as global in outlook as possible, but I hope I can be forgiven in this instance because I think the information is good and the example is very relevant to much that is ha...

5.10 Solutions

We listened to Chris Tucker’s interesting podcast #57 in webpage 5.7 where he talked about the overall population issue and a potentially sustainable population for the world. In this, the second part, #58, he elaborates on ways to get there. My n...

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1/11

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5. Reduce Population
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Even on top of Mt. Everest, in one of the remotest, most difficult places on earth, there is a great traffic-jam of people jostling for position. And yet, ever more vociferously, we deny that overp...
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