Written by: Matt Patti | April 22nd, 2021
8 Billion Angels (Victor Velle, 2019) 2½ out of 4 stars.
If you were to ask anyone around the world what the largest issue facing the Earth is today, many would make the case for environmental issues being at the top of that list. If you were to also ask what the leading contributor to our environment’s decline is, most would likely blame pollution. However, I’d bet that few people would realize off the top of their head that the biggest factor that leads to these problems in nature are actually all humans, regardless of carbon footprint. More specifically, overpopulation is the leading culprit of the Earth’s current unfortunate state. The consistently increasing number of people leads to the need for more resources, but currently humanity’s need for those resources greatly exceeds the Earth’s ability to provide them.
The documentary 8 Billion Angels takes a look at the current state of the world and dives deep into pressing environmental issues across the globe, highlights what some people are already doing to combat the damage being done, and suggests potential solutions for the future. We begin our worldwide tour in the oceans, where more and more carbon dioxide is entering the water, thanks primarily to humans. The CO2 makes the water more corrosive, harming the plants and animals under the sea. We then move to the land, where the water table is lowering and wells are diminishing. Meanwhile, in certain parts of the world such as India, the air is almost unbreathable and the rivers are jet black, filled with pollution, even though they are still heavily relied upon as a resource to locals. Through this detailed inspection of our natural resources as they are today, the film makes the case that we are experiencing the largest extinction level event since the eradication of the dinosaurs.
The film does a great job of showing how these environmental problems are affecting everyday people, and how much worse things will get in the future if no action is taken. It is inspiring to see that many folks today are taking a stand and taking it upon themselves to attempt to save the Earth, even if they are only making a small contribution. What’s even more intriguing are the solutions offered for the future. The documentary provides concrete evidence that educated women may just be the most important factor in population control. Women that have access to a quality education are typically more empowered to do well for themselves and strive to get a career. Access to family planning resources and healthcare for women are also important pieces that help decrease fertility. Many countries that have emphasized the importance of these factors, as well as encouraged small families in a non-coercive way (advertising, TV shows, etc.), have shown significant drops in their population over the years.
Though captivating and thought-provoking, the solutions presented in the film only account for about one-third of its total runtime. I would have loved to see the film spend more time on this exciting, important topic. However, it occupies most of its length talking about specific environmental issues. While these are important, as well, many of them are already quite familiar to the layman and not much new information is presented. The documentary also goes off on some tangents sometimes, when it could spent more time talking about these solutions for the future. Overall, however, the film functions as a timely showcase of the state of the world today and what issues are becoming serious threats to humanity’s future. 8 Billion Angels tells us what we need to do, and stop doing, in order to ensure a better world for the next generation.