January/February 2012  (Volume 27, Issue 1)

Mother: Caring for 7 Billion

(2011) 60 min. DVD: $24.95: individuals; $39.95 ($134.95 w/PPR): public libraries; $74.95 ($145 w/PPR): high schools; $145 w/PPR: colleges & universities. Tiroir A Films Productions.

Reviewer rating: 3.0/4

Mother makes the argument that overpopulation is the underlying cause of most threats to the global environment, while also noting that activists have allowed the topic to fade from public consciousness since the “population explosion” movement of the 1960s. The documentary introduces Dr. Beth Osnes of the children’s rights organization Mothers Acting Up, who tells her personal story of growing up in a large family (with 10 kids) and coming to terms with the idea of limiting her own. Director Christophe Fauchère follows Osnes to Ethiopia, where she meets women who’ve been inspired by an activist radio drama to reject arranged marriages and limit their number of offspring. Back in the U.S., several experts, including noted author and population guru Paul Ehrlich, report statistics on unsafe abortion, unintended pregnancies, and teen pregnancy rates, and look at the reasons why people have large families, including religious beliefs, social pressure, the stigma attached to being childless, and the cultural status achieved through having big families (in particular, sons). Osnes also admits that being part of a large clan can simply feel good. The important messages conveyed here are that the U.S. cannot expect other countries to address overpopulation if Americans do not do so first, and empowering women with information is the key to stemming a worldwide crisis. Combining animation, vintage film, and documentary footage interwoven with interviews, Mother is a sobering and thought-provoking look at the population issue, especially timely given the recent milestone of 7 billion people on Earth. Recommended. Aud: J, H, C, P. (M. Puffer-Rothenberg)