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Footprint

Too many people, too much stuff: poor countries fail to control birth rate, while their rich counterparts are unable to manage overconsumption; the Earth pays the price

Population explosion, excessive consumption and limited resources — the future of our planet does not look bright. Film director Valentina Canavesio (Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart, 2014) presents cases from Philippines, Mexico, India and Islamic countries in order to shed light on issues like water consumption, birth control, family planning and rubbish.

In January 2013, the city of Cairo held the Conference on Sustainable Urban Growth amid Transition and Uncertainty. It became clear then that businesses that used to support public institutions and invest in sustainable growth can no longer rely on stable government relationships. One solution is for business to invest in quality education and women’s empowerment.

That said, it seems that the solution is very easy to achieve. The problem is that women need permission from their partners in order to plan their family, in most of the countries with high population growth rate. They do not have access to anticonceptive methods for free.

Religion plays an important role in that process, too. In Islam, for example, it is easy to find the “pill of the next day” and in Footprint Islamic religious leaders say that it is up to the family to decide how many children they want to have. But more conservative Islamic leaders have openly campaigned against the use of condoms or other birth control methods, thus making population planning in many countries ineffective. Islam is strongly pro-family and regards children as a gift from God.

In the Philippines, the majority of the population is Catholic, and today still the Vatican has an enormous influence on family planning. During the Conference in Cairo the Vatican threatened to stop helping the poor if a bill concerning family planning was approved.

During Indira Gandhi’s government in India, many women were sterilised without their consent. This is because many Indian families won’t stop having children until they have a male heir.

In wealthier countries, there are other concerns. The US produce two million water plastic bottles every five minutes. A visual artist went to Midway Atoll, about halfway between the US and Asia, in order to raise awareness of the problem. The islands are known for its “plastic beaches”, nicknamed “the Pacific Garbage Patch”. He took photos of the skeleton of albatrosses on the island and created a huge screen with them. They reveal an unfathomable amount of plastic inside their carcasses.

The writing is on the wall: people need to act now in order to keep the planet alive — the film succeeds to convey the message. It both reinforces the zero population growth campaign in poor countries and highlights the urgency of cutting down consumption in their richer counterparts. On the other hand, the soundtrack can be a little vexing, perhaps resembling a TV reality show.

This feature was part of Sheffield Doc Fest this week and it is currently seeking a distributor.

Watch the film trailer below:

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By Maysa Monção - 17-06-2016

Maysa Monção is a Brazilian writer, teacher, translator, editor and art performer who currently lives in London. She has a Masters Degree in Film Studies from Tor Vergata University in Rome, Italy, ...

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