Joel Cohen Video: An Intro to Demography

Mountainfilm in Telluride 2012 focused on population, and although the Moving Mountains Symposium is over, we’re not closing the door on the discussion. It’s a many-layered subject and affects most every ecosystem on the planet.

In this video, Joel Cohen, a professor of populations at Rockefeller and Columbia Universities (who couldn’t make it to our symposium), outlines the complexity of the topic while simultaneously simplifying the difficult subject.

Before you begin, a few caveats:

  1. The video is 43 minutes.
  2. The intended audience is students who might consider demography as a course of study, but the sales pitch on either end is brief.

If the caveats deter you in any way from setting aside 43 minutes to watch, here are a few incentives to counteract them:

Wilderness Crunch: Northern States Feel it Most

We love the outdoors at Mountainfilm in Telluride, but a new study, “Outdoor Recreation in the Northern United States," shows that America's growing population and increasing interest in the outdoors is straining state and federal recreation areas, particularly in the northern states. The research, commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service, looks at 20 states in the north — extending from Maine to Minnesota and from Missouri to Maryland — and concludes that while the area’s population growth was less than the rest of the country, there will still be a conflict for land and water resources, especially when it comes to outdoor activities.

In this northern region, approximately 90 to 94 million people age 16 and older engage in outdoor recreation that ranges from hunting and fishing to orienteering, kayaking and mountain biking. The most popular activities are pretty tame: walking for pleasure, family gatherings outdoors, viewing/ photographing natural scenery, visiting outdoor nature centers,gardening or landscaping, and picnicking.

Population: Measuring Ecological Impact by Country

Population is a sticky subject. It’s personal, cultural and biological. It’s also complicated: The impact of parenting depends upon which part of the planet we live. As the Global Footprint Network (an organization that has developed a data-driven metric that tells us how close we are to the goal of sustainable living) explains, ecological footprints are dependent upon your home address, which is associated with government assistance, roads and infrastructure, public services and military expenses. In the Footprint Calculator, citizens of a country are allocated their share of these societal impacts. (Check out the calculator; it’s pretty cool.)

Wrap with Care: Condoms to Stop Extinction

In 2009, the Center for Biological Diversity, an organization dedicated to stopping the extinction of rare plants and animals in the world, started handing out condoms with rhyming environmental slogans on the wrappers. Condoms to prevent extinction? Exactly.

At Mountainfilm’s 2012 Moving Mountains Symposium, keynote speaker Paul Ehrlich presented this overarching message: Population and consumption are inseparable. In 2011, the human population passed the 7 billion mark, and the consumption of humans drives the major environmental problems that plague the planet. From climate change to species extinction, humans with our endless appetite for resources, are at the heart of the problem.

Mountainfilm in Telluride Announces Full Roster of Symposium Speakers

Moving Mountains Symposium Theme is Population

Telluride, Colorado (March 27, 2012) –Mountainfilm in Telluride will launch its 34th annual festival on Friday, May 25, with a close look at the complicated subject of population. Over a dozen speakers, each focusing on a different area of expertise, will address the subject during the daylong Moving Mountains Symposium.

“This theme synthesizes many issues Mountainfilm has examined in recent years, such as energy, water, food and extinction,” explained David Holbrooke, Mountainfilm in Telluride’s festival director. “The population was at 4 billion in 1974, and when that number is compared to estimates of 9 billion, or sometimes even 11, by 2050, it’s hard to look at any issue we face — such as food shortages, water depletion, energy consumption or disappearance of wildlife — without factoring in population."

Traditions Change: Birthrates Drop in Latin America and Asia

The Washington Post recently reported on plummeting birth rates in Brazil, a country with traditionally big families. The consistency of this swing across such a large, economically, geographically and politically diverse country was striking to demographers. It reflects an even larger trend across much of Latin America, which has seen women go from having almost six children each in 1960 to an average of 2.3 today. This tendency has also reached Asia, which has seen similar declines, but as the population-focused Guttmacher Institute reports, much of sub-Saharan Africa remains all too fertile with birth rates double that of Asia and Latin America.

United Nations Weighs in on Population: What the Numbers Mean

The United Nations released an alarming report recently about population, a topic that will be the focus of Mountainfilm in Telluride's 2012 Moving Mountains Symposium. According to the report, nearly 3 billion people could end up impoverished by 2050. The U.N. argues that "The current global development model is unsustainable. To achieve sustainability, a transformation of the global economy is required." Ironically, the number of people on the planet living in "absolute poverty" has reduced to 27 percent from 46 percent in 1990, but with natural resources rapidly diminishing, these numbers are predicted to head in the wrong direction in the future.

Failing States Determined Largely By A Population's Demographics

Each year, the Fund for Peace publishes a list of "failing states" that they catalog according to "their vulnerability to violent conflict and societal deterioration." They use twelve social, economic and political indicators - ranked 0-10 - so a combined score of 120 would mean a state is failing on every level. For instance, the top failed state in the world is Somalia with a score of 113.4, while Finland has the lowest score of only 19.7 (with the U.S. coming in at 34.8). What is particularly compelling, given the Mountainfilm focus on population is how much demographics impacts these scores. Almost all of the failing states have about 70% of their population under the age of thirty, compared to 35% or so for the stable countries.

Attention Photography Buffs! Enter Mountain Lodge Telluride's Photo Contest

Mountain Lodge Telluride is running a terrific photo competition based on the theme of Mountainfilm's 2012 Moving Mountains Symposium: "Population". Enter the photo contest for a chance to win great prizes, including lodging and passes for Mountainfilm 2012! World renowned photographer Robert Glenn Ketchum is one of the esteemed judges...

Moving Mountains Symposium Subject "Population" Is A Hot Topic

With the total population on the planet exceeding 7 Billion there have been a lot of articles on the issue, which works out well for us at Mountainfilm in Telluride since we are focusing our 2012 Moving Mountains Symposium on the subject. The NY Times produced a terrific reader-generated photo essay on population, and this website has a breakdown of some of the basic numbers such as the youngest and oldest countries on earth (Uganda's Median Age is 15, while Monaco's is 50).