How Many People Can Live on Earth? is a movie your students need to see

In a world with more than 7.5 billion people, human overcrowding and rampant population growth is evidently distressing Earth’s systems and societies. Where do we go from here? Are we heading towards Earth’s breaking point? Why are we only asking ourselves these questions when we can also ask…renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough?!

Narrated by Sir David and punctuated with insightful commentary from experts around the globe, the documentary “How Many People Can Live on Earth?” explores the issues surrounding overpopulation and our use of natural resources like water, food and land. They present scientifically-driven perspectives and arguments that are wonderfully complemented by real people and communities dealing with the effects of overpopulation. Seeing the water crisis in Mexico City and land scarcity in Rwanda helps viewers understand the urgency and gravity of these global ills.

And it’s not all doom-and-gloom: the last section is devoted to promoting some potential solutions for reining in human population growth and working towards a more sustainable future. The film argues that instead of coercive population policies, we need to focus on access to family planning and women’s education around the world.

Fast-paced and packed with illuminating imagery, the film keeps you fully engaged for its compact 47-minute runtime. It would be appropriate for most middle and high school level classrooms, and especially relevant to geography and environmental science courses.

Want to check for understanding and challenge students to analyze overpopulation? Here are some questions to help your students discuss and further explore the topics presented in the film:

  1. Recall the population projections they make for certain countries in the film (7:50). Why are these demographic predictions different for each nation?
  2. In what ways does agriculture use water? What other resources does agriculture use?
  3. What are some of the problems with India’s population policies in the 1970s?
  4. Why is education important for our global society?
  5. Think about your own lifestyle: how do your daily needs and activities impact the Earth? What can you do to be a part of a more sustainable future?

You can watch “How Many People Can Live on Earth?” for free on the website Top Documentary Films. Enjoy!