Mother: Caring for 7 Billion

By Sharon Ede

The creators of the award-winning documentary Mother: Caring for 7 Billion, Tiroir A Films, have made a ‘Director’s Cut’ of the film available, streaming free on the internet in honour of Earth Day (22 April).

From 19 April until the end of May, the film can be accessed for viewing on YouTube.

The documentary follows the learning journey of Beth, a children’s rights activist and mother who grew up in a family of twelve.

The cultural, economic and personal complexities of the population issue are examined through the stories of women like Ethiopia’s courageous Zinet, who refused an offer of marriage and went to work in the Population Media Center’s Ethiopian office, changing the culture of her family in the process, as well as the lives of many women through her work.

Looking back to the emerging concern about overpopulation in the 1960s, the film recalls how population was identified as an environmental issue on the first Earth Day in 1970 — yet contemporary interviews reveal a startling lack of awareness of what the global population is now, how rapidly it has grown (it has almost doubled since the first Earth Day from 3.7 billion to 7 billion) and how it is a factor in many environmental concerns.

‘Mother’ rightly calls out the environmental movement for generally shying away from speaking out on population, and for not recognising that it is a driver for many of the issues the environmental/sustainability movement is seeking to address.

The film also includes interviews with Esraa Bani of Population Action International; biologist and author of The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich; founder of population and women’s health nonprofit Venture Strategies, Dr Martha Campbell; founder of the Global Footprint Network, Mathis Wackernagel; and Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute.

Subtitles are available in English and Spanish, with French and Portuguese to come (click the icon on the left hand side of the group of icons at bottom right on the YouTube clip to access captions).

The film does not touch on the issue of immigration, which is another sensitive aspect of the population debate, possibly because the focus of the film is on the status of women and women’s health.

It does venture into the territory of the ‘child-free’ (by choice, as distinct from ‘childless’), which itself is a difficult social taboo to breach, for women in particular, and could be the subject of a documentary in its own right.

One of the interesting aspects of the documentary is that it draws on the social theories of Riane Eisler (author of ‘The Chalice and the Blade’) in positioning overpopulation as a symptom of bigger cultural force — a ‘dominator culture’ that has seen the domination of man over nature and over woman for much of human history.

If we are to address overpopulation, we must shift this cultural mindset from a dominating, conquering one to a nurturing one. And to effect this change, the status of women worldwide must be raised. Or inversely, raising the status of women is a societal shift that needs to happen anyway for a range of reasons — a chosen decline in population will follow.

‘Mother’ shows there is a positive, constructive way to encourage conversation and action on the sensitive issue of population that will bring benefits for people everywhere — and the non-human species and ecosystems that need a bit of breathing room from us.

Originally published in April 2013. To Find out more about the Post Growth Institute, visit our website.

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