"World of 7 Billion" Videos Find Planet-Saving Solutions

05/26/2015 02:21 pm ET | Updated May 22, 2016

As a father of three former teenagers, I know that high school students probably don't seem like the best people to ask for ways to save the planet. They are sarcastic, hormonal, and iPhone-obsessed. But they also have a fresh and untainted worldview that allows them to think of previously unimaginable solutions for our planet's greatest problems.

Case in point: The winning videos revealed earlier this month as part of this year's "World of 7 Billion" student video contest sponsored by the organization I head, Population Connection, through our program, Population Education.

Now in its fourth year, "World of 7 Billion" encourages high school students from around the globe to create a 60-second video that both examines and presents solutions for topics related to human population growth.

During the 2014-2015 school year we asked students to create and enter videos on one of these three global challenges: universal education, diminishing farmland, and the sixth mass extinction. To our delight, over 1,600 high school students from 39 U.S. states and 23 countries participated, submitting a total of 865 videos by the contest deadline in February.

Not long after, I and 27 others--individuals ranging from educators to filmmakers to professionals working on agriculture and sustainability--were faced with the arduous task of judging and then selecting the winning videos.

Ultimately, we chose 13 winners from four countries and seven U.S. states. The three first place winners each received a $1,000 cash prize, the three second place winners each received a $500 cash prize, and seven honorable mentions each received a $250 cash prize.

As I am every year, I was thoroughly impressed with this year's winning videos and the young filmmakers' ability to relay meaningful messages in under 60 seconds. Some of the student winners are experienced filmmakers and others are first-timers, but one thing is clear: They all care deeply about securing a healthy future for our planet.

In the first place video for the sixth mass extinction category, Katherine Selley and Catherine Knox depicted the connection between population growth and species loss using snippets of footage collected during some of their international travels. Honorable mention Elizabeth Hwang created a video for the same topic using stop-motion animation--a tedious process that involves scanning, printing, and cutting photos to set up frames.

Hailey Hess was inspired to create her video on the importance of universal education after a mission trip to Zambia, where she encountered the hardships of a group of young orphan girls. "None of them had ever gone to school," remarked Hailey, whose video took second place in her category.

But these four winners are just the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to view all of the top videos and learn about the other inspiring student filmmakers by visiting

Because sometimes the best solutions come from the most unexpected places.