How many people can live on planet earth?.

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About this work


David Attenborough considers how continuing population growth will affect life on earth in the future. There are currently 7 billion people living in the world and human population density is a worldwide problem; population studies show that within the next 50 years there are likely to be 9 billion people on the planet. Attenborough talks about how population growth will drain the resources of the natural world, leading to poverty and disease as environmental limits are over-reached. He believes we are already reaching some environmental limits, particularly with the necessary resource of water; he shows how ground water levels are changing throughout the world and how this is then having an effect on food production. But perhaps the greatest problem is the harvesting of fuel sources from the natural world. Oil is one of the most highly used of the fossil fuels and resources are running out. Attenborough discusses, too, the depletion of the diversity of natural life with many animal and plant species now under threat of extinction. Ecologist William Rees believes we are already exceeding the capacities of the planet, both in terms of what we take from the planet and the amount of waste we produce. Attenborough suggests 3 measures we need to take: lower our energy consumption, change our technology and reduce birth rates across the globe but particularly in Europe and North America. He looks at schemes which have aimed to reduce birth rate levels in China and India and shows how in areas where women are educated they tend to have children later and prefer to have smaller families. Access to contraception is an issue in many poorer cultures although women in Rwanda are now given regular free access and their family sizes are growing smaller. Attenborough ends by suggesting we are now at a crossroads and we need to use our intelligence to make changes while we still can.



UK : BBC 2, 2009.

Physical description

1 DVD (50 min.) : sound, color, PAL.


Broadcast on 9 December, 2009

Creator/production credits

Written and directed by Helen Shariatmadari.



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