Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Support PBS Shop PBS Search PBS
Journey to Planet Earth
Rivers of DestinyUrban ExplosionLand of Plenty, Land of WantOn the BrinkSeas of GrassHot ZonesFuture ConditionalState of the PlanetState of the Planet's WildlifeState of the Ocean's Animals
   The Programs
   Stories of Hope


State of the Planet



   Country Profiles
   Educational Resources
The State of the Planet

Eugene Linden, Author/Journalist:

I think that the Earth has been sending us distress signals and the distress signals have to do with the pressures of human population and the pressures of the human economy on the ecosystems.

Tom Lovejoy, The Heinz Center:

If current trends continue, by 2050 something on the order of a third or 40% of all species will either have become extinct or will be on the threshold of going extinct.

Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute:

More than a billion people don’t have access to safe drinking water. 2.6 billion people, almost, almost half the world’s population doesn’t have access to adequate sanitation services.

Rajul Pandya-Lorch, International Food Policy Research Institute:

More than 130 million children who are under the age of five will still remain malnourished by 2020.

Lester Brown, Earth Policy Institute:

We are in effect, outgrowing the Earth. We need another planet but there’s no other habitable planet that we can go to.

Since the first of time, before our ancestors even thought of time, first light reveals a treasure almost beyond imagination – the elegance of diversity and the rich tapestry of the natural world. Ours is also a world shaped by people, by those who are strongly tied to the land and who draw from its bounty. They suffered during hard times, only to be renewed by the birth of each new generation.

Video Excerpt: [ 56k ]  [ 220k ]

This is also a place our ancestors never could have dreamed of with mega-cities of glass and steel, the home to expanding populations, powered by a global economy, and fueled by never ending images of consumption. Even when the sun gives way to the glow of neon, we've found a way to continue the frenzy – a way to freeze time – until we reach the very edge of night. Yet all too often first light brings a more sobering reality – perhaps all is not well with the state of the planet.

“If I had to use one word to describe the environmental state of the planet right now, I think I would say precarious. It isn’t doomed. It isn’t certainly headed toward disaster. But it’s in a very precarious situation right now.”

— Robert Engelman, Population Action International

In many ways the most important challenge to the state of the planet is recognizing the seriousness of the problems that lie ahead. How could this have happened? How could our planet be faced with seemingly unprecedented environmental challenges? Perhaps it's best to start with numbers – numbers that have literally shaped the human condition.

Pedicabs in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Pedicabs in Dhaka, Bangladesh

From the time of our prehistoric ancestors, it took until about 1800 for our planet's population to reach one billion people. It took another 125 years to reach 2 billion – less than 50 years to reach 4 billion – and only 25 years more years to reach six billion people. Incredibly, the world's population grew more in the past fifty years than in the preceding 4 million years.Today our numbers have surged to nearly six and half billion and our population is increasing by nearly 80 million people each year – 220,000 each day.

In the end, all we want is for first light to still reveal the rich tapestry of the natural world and, with each new day, a chance for every child born into poverty to share the same dreams we in the West so often take for granted.

What we need are the efforts of people everywhere – all those who are willing to find ways to strike the right balance between what we want and what nature can provide.

Though separated by distance and culture, for the six and a half billion people who draw sustenance from the resources of the world, there are common bonds. Each generation brings new ideas, new attitudes, and new hope to renew these bonds.



Read more about The State of the Planet:
Introduction | Population | Fresh Water | Wetlands | Global Warming | Ecosystems


Site Credits | Contact | Pledge
Purchase | Newsletter Signup

Rivers of Destiny | Urban Explosion | Land of Plenty, Land of Want | Seas of Grass
Hot Zones
| On the Brink | Future Conditional | The State of the Planet
State of the Planet's Wildlife
| State of the Ocean's Animals

PBS Privacy Policy    © 2007 Screenscope, Inc.     All rights reserved