New Documentary Series — The People Problem

March 1, 2012 • United States, Daily Email Recap

The following announcement comes from Jane Turville, who has a track record of getting her films shown on PBS. Over the next several years, Jane will be creating a four part series (four one-hour segments) that explores population growth under the inclusive umbrella of sustainability – ecological, social, and economic balance. She plans to distribute the finished product to PBS stations nationwide via the National Educational Television Association. You can review her Kickstarter page here:


Jane Turville

The other day I was talking to a good friend about my new documentary project THE PEOPLE PROBLEM. Now, before I go on, let me tell you a little bit about my friend. He has a degree in biology and has worked in the scientific arena for many years. He has developed products for research laboratories and previously worked at one of America’s top universities. All in all, he’s a pretty smart guy.   Plus, he’s the real deal when it comes to sustainability. He’s made more changes to lessen his carbon footprint than anyone else I know. I try really hard, but there is no doubt, he’s definitely outdone me.

Yet, during our conversation, he kept coming back to the same comment – “We should just stop having kids.”   Over and over again, no matter how I tried to introduce immigration, healthcare, or consumerism into the discussion, he kept returning to “Stop having kids.”

This conversation illustrates the two primary reasons why I’m making this film series. First, many people in the environmental and sustainability communities view population growth through a very narrow, specific lens that doesn’t allow for an inclusive discussion. Second, those of us (like me) who are interested in exploring population growth, don’t know or can’t relate to the many issues involved, so we have problems even starting a broader discussion.

This conundrum has bothered me for many years. Why are we okay making statements like “Stop having kids” or “There are just too many people” but uncomfortable elaborating? Why don’t people well-versed in sustainability issues feel as comfortable talking about the number of people on the planet as they do about ending oil dependence or shopping locally?

I’ve thought about this a lot, and have come to the conclusion that basically, fear stops us in our tracks. We think over-population is an issue, but to talk about it feels like we somehow support forcing people to give up basic human rights. And, face it, telling someone they can’t have kids IS impinging on the basic human right to choose the size of one’s family.

So I started digging about to see what sort of information is available to dispel this notion and make conversation okay. What I found was that, while there is some very whacky information out there, the majority is very good and very compelling. LOTS of data. Some very good stories on specific issues affected by population.   Great programs, and good films about these programs. And I also discovered that, despite all of the data, stories and programs, I couldn’t figure out very easily exactly how all of this related to me – a white gal, living in a small city in America, trying to live more sustainably. The hole in the information is “how does it apply to me.”

Last year, after one of my twenty-something female friends immediately quoted data about women in Africa and China when I mentioned my interest in exploring population growth, I made the decision to do something about the fear, misunderstanding and inability to relate to this subject. I decided to make a film.

Over the next three years, I am committed to making THE PEOPLE PROBLEM: ARE THERE TOO MANY OF US? This will be a four part series (four one-hour segments) that explores population growth under the inclusive umbrella of sustainability – ecological, social, and economic balance. My goal is to (a) alleviate fear about discussing population and (b) translate compelling information into visual stories that resonate with mainstream citizens. The series will be distributed to PBS stations nationwide by the National Educational Television Association. Pending full funding, it will be ready for broadcast in Spring 2015. The series will also be available to international audiences and a 90-minute documentary film suitable for screenings and festivals will be created from the series content.

My intent is that THE PEOPLE PROBLEM will follow the path of two of my films that have appeared on PBS stations nationwide. In 2007 I co-produced A PASSION FOR SUSTAINABILTY, and last year the award-winning documentary  THE GREENSEST BUILDING which I wrote, produced and directed, was broadcast on PBS. This film is currently being rebroadcast on PBS stations around the country.

If you’ve also noticed that discussion on population growth seems tempered by fear or you would like to bring the wealth information on population growth to PBS audiences, please visit to learn more about THE PEOPLE PROBLEM, see a trailer or make a donation. Your support is necessary and deeply appreciated. If you have additional questions about this project, please contact me at Also, as I am a new member of the population community, I deeply appreciate Bill Ryerson and The Population Media Center introducing me, and THE PEOPLE PROBLEM, to you.

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