Last night I watched the documentary Revolution by Rob Stewart, a young Canadian photographer, cum cinematographer, cum writer, cum activist.
A wonderful, eye opening, thought provoking documentary which I highly recommend watching, largely for its cinematography but also for the awareness that it creates. Unfortunately, as with many of these types of documentaries, such as An Inconvenient Truth, it was big on highlighting an issue but small on putting forth recommendations/solutions to the issues they raise. In Revolution, the focus was largely on environmental concerns such as excessive carbon dioxide emissions leading to acidification of our oceans, as well as looking at depletion of limited resources. Providing a parade of experts in their field, none ventured any solutions to the issues that they raised, never once suggesting WHAT sort of changes/sacrifices we will need to make in order to save our planet and the human species. Suggestions tended to be implicit rather than explicit and near as I can see, unless we are knocked on the head, the message does not get through. As Rob said in a TedTalk that was filmed at his alma mata, Western University, every time during the making of the documentary that he thought he had the main issue, he was told that there was an even bigger picture out there.
The biggest issue we face in my humble opinion, which Rob alludes to in the TedTalk but is not really addressed enough in Revolution, is that we live on a planet that can support somewhere from 2-4 billion humans (depending on the quality of life you are using as a reference) but which currently has almost 8 billion and growing exponentially.
“Current global population of over 7 billion is already two to three times higher than the sustainable level. Several recent studies show that Earth’s resources are enough to sustain only about 2 billion people at a European standard of living. An average European consumes far more resources than any of the poorest two billion people in the world. However, Europeans use only about half the resources of Americans, on average.”
Simply put: there are too many humans on the planet, with a privilege few living in excess and heavily populated countries like Brazil, India and China on the brink of taking their fair share of the wealth and resources. (This by the way, is the underlying premise of Dan Brown’s latest block buster, Inferno.)
The conclusion? That only half the number of humans alive should be. So, WHAT is the solution? How can we can expect 8 Billion ++++ people to live equally and happily together on the planet? What I would like to know, is what are the sacrifices that all of us will have to make in order to bring our planet back into balance. More specifically, what sort of impact would that have to those of us in the first world, who would have to make the biggest sacrifices of all?
NONE of this was addressed in Revolution, so it stops short of being truly effective in educating people; we are informed of the dangers but no one is really addressing the hard issues, which is the action that needs to be taken. There were just vague references about governments needing to do what they know needs to be done, with no indication of what exactly those actions should be. Too much talk about the dangers, not enough about the solutions, likely because to tackle the real problem of overpopulation would be a difficult, politically explosive subject to deal with.
The following is a second excerpt from the World Population Balance url I gave above and takes up where Revolution stopped short.
“To become sustainable with Earth’s resources, what are our choices? Reducing overall consumption by 50% would do it for now. Or, reducing population by 3 to 4 billion would do it. It’s more likely that a combination of both – large declines in consumption and human numbers – will be necessary.”
A tough and shocking statement to make? Hell yes. No wonder then no one wants to make that statement in a documentary meant to raise awareness.