To Combat Climate Change: Educate Girls and Give them Birth Control

A Thai girl clutches her belongings as she waits for some help to cross floodwater as people leave flooded areas in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011. Bangkok residents jammed bus stations and highways on Wednesday to flee the flood-threatened Thai capital, while others built cement walls to protect their shops or homes from advancing waters surging from the country’s flooded north. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

Climate change certainly is a ubiquitous hydra, often referred to as a many-headed beast which affects everything and everyone in some form or the other. Solutions to climate change range from effective and practical measures to potentially catastrophically dangerous—but, in this heated debate, a potent weapon in is falling by the wayside: women empowerment.

While talking about climate change measures, re-occurring and obvious themes are carbon-cutting measures, such as energy efficiency. However, according to the Project Drawdown, educating girls and providing them with access to birth control solutions are two among the top ten solutions.

This is not the first time environmentalists have highlighted education and family planning as a way to combat climate change. In 2016, Dr. Homi Kharas had written for the Brookings Institution, “It is high time for policymakers to make the link between education and climate change, not just in theory but in their financing and programming decisions.”

The link between educating girls and a reduction in the carbon footprint isn’t as obvious as phasing out fossil fuels. However, once you dig deeper the evidence will appear clearly. It’s evident that having more girls enrolled in schools and giving them quality education has a number of profound and cascading effects, including higher life expectancies, reduced incidence of diseases, increased economic prosperity, lesser forced marriages, and of course, fewer children. Access to education and attainment does not simply equip women with skills required to deal with antagonizing effects of climate change, but also offers them to influence how their communities keep militating against it.

The education of girls only in a few countries is nearly approaching parity with boys. But, for most of the planet, this stays as distressingly elusive. Poverty, alongside community traditions tends to hold back girls since boys are prioritized.

Then there’s family planning, something that’s inseparable from the education of girls. The planet is overpopulated and the demands of citizens are greatly exceeding the natural resources that still remains in our environment.

According to the Institute for Family Studies, Sub-Saharan African women are bearing more children on an average when compared to women in any other region of the world. Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo show an average of 6.5 children. On the other hand, Uganda, Nigeria, and Tanzania have rates of 5.8, 5.5, and 5.2, respectively. The lowest rate in the region of 2.4 children per woman in South Africa is still above replacement fertility.

But the question arises that why is education of girls absolutely essential for climate change supporters? Andrews explains, “Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives for girls and women, their families, and their communities. It also is one of the most powerful levers available for avoiding emissions by curbing population growth. Women with more years of education have fewer and healthier children, and actively manage their reproductive health.”

Contraception as well as prenatal care are often denied to women all over the world, from those in low-income countries to those in the United States. It is either unavailable, unaffordable, or there are social and/or religious motives to ensure that it’s heavily restricted or banned. Consequently, the world’s population has been and will keep rising rapidly. Moreover, citizens will consume more resources, power ambitions using fossil fuels, and carbon dioxide will continue accumulating in the atmosphere.

On the other hand, feminist and abortion activist Gloria Steinem mentioned last year, “Listen, what causes climate deprivation is population. If we had not been systematically forcing women to have children they don’t want or can’t care for over the 500 years of patriarchy, we wouldn’t have the climate problems that we have. That’s the fundamental cause of climate change.”

The world would certainly benefit if women, actually, were on par with men in every segment of the society. We should not spend any more time convincing. Instead, the fact that social ascension of women would cause a tremendous blow to anthropogenic warming ought to be shouted from rooftops.

Educating the girl child and family planning, thus, can be considered to be issues involving women empowerment in communities globally. Drawdown concluded on calculation that, only by investing sufficiently in family planning and taking steps toward universal education in developing countries, the world could nix 120 billion tons of emissions by 2050. That’s approximately 10 years’ worth of China’s annual emissions as of 2014, and it’s all due to the fact that world population will not rise so rapidly.

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