Mountainfilm Announces Population as Symposium Theme for 2012

Guests include Paul Ehrlich and Dave Foreman

Telluride, Colorado (September 13, 2011) – The total number of people on the planet is expected to cross the 7 Billion mark on October 31, 2011 according to the U.N. and with that milestone, Mountainfilm’s Moving Mountains Symposium will focus on the key issue of population in 2012. “We think this is the right theme for our next symposium because it synthesizes so much of what the festival has covered the last several years with energy, water, food and extinction,” said Festival Director David Holbrooke. “The simple numbers are staggering – especially when you realize we were at 4 Billion in 1974 and the U.N. believes that by 2050, the population will most likely double to 9 Billion with some estimates as high as 11 Billion. That’s a huge jump in 75 years and we want to understand what this will mean for this planet, its people and other living creatures.”

In 1999, global population crossed the 6 Billion mark, ending a century marked by falling prices (especially of oil), an expanded food supply and rising standards of living across the world. At the time, there was real concern that the population could fall below the replacement rate. As The Atlantic wrote, “fifty years from now, the population will be declining with no end in sight.”

A dozen years later, as a recent report from the Population Institute stated, “As we approach the seven billion mark, world population is still growing with no end in sight.” We are also faced with rising food prices, peak oil, setbacks in reducing hunger and world poverty and the increasingly ominous specter of global warming, which is causing rivers, lakes and glaciers to shrink, intensifying a dearth of arable land and water for a growing population.

There are potential solutions and experts believe that one of the keys to stabilizing population is getting more women to have control over their bodies and their pregnancies, particularly in the developing world. Increased availability of contraception will help but there also needs to be a fundamental shift in the way women are educated and empowered in much of the world, as delayed marriages are a positive economic indicator.

The most renowned expert on this subject is Stanford Professor Paul Ehrlich, the author of The Population Bomb who has agreed to attend the festival. Mountainfilm Program Director Emily Long said, “As we researched the subject of population, the name that came up time and again was Paul Ehrlich. I reached out to him and was thrilled he was available to come to Mountainfilm this year as he is really the preeminent voice on this subject.”

Another guest will be famed environmentalist Dave Foreman who founded Earth First and now runs the Rewilding Institute who will talk about how fifty thousand years ago, there were more tigers (not to mention blue whales, white rhinos and gorillas) than there were humans. One hundred years ago, there were more than 100,000 wild tigers in India alone - today, there is one tiger for every 2 million people and that number isn’t likely to get better

While population in some parts of the world is growing, other areas – like Europe are not reaching replacement levels. If they keep their same birth rate, countries such as Spain, Italy and Germany will lose approximately 85 percent of its current population unless they supplement it with immigrants.

Immigration, a controversial issue, will be examined in the Symposium as well, since it is such an important component of population. More than 200 million people live outside the country of their birth, a number that has doubled in the last twenty years. In the U.S. alone, some 36 million people legally immigrated to this country in the 20th century (add in the illegal immigrants and you get 50 million). 

Other issues relevant to this subject such as migration, refugees (and in particular climate refugees) economic growth and consumption will be on the agenda. Mountainfilm will also be programming films and art on the subject of population for 2012.

About Mountainfilm: Established in 1979, Mountainfilm in Tellu­ride is dedicated to educating, inspiring and activating audiences about critical environmental, cultural and social issues. Working at the nexus of filmmaking, adventure and activism, its flagship program is the legendary Mountainfilm Festival—a one-of-a-kind combination film festival, ideas summit and jamboree. Mountainfilm also reaches audiences year round through its worldwide tour, on Outside Television, with its online Minds of Mountainfilm interviews and in classrooms through its educational outreach initiative, Making Movies that Matter. Mountainfilm has the power to change lives. To learn more, visit the website. To join the conversation, please visit the blog, follow us on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.

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