By Joy Danzig
The New York Times ran an editorial with the surprising title, “This Has Been the Best Year Ever,” on Dec. 28, 2019. The editorial’s author, Nicholas Kristof, wrote “few forces change the world so much as education and the empowerment of women.”
Kristof said he drew his conclusion from a vantage point of “the long arc of human history.”
To illustrate, he pointed to the dramatic decline of illiteracy, poverty and diseases typically prevalent in developing nations. Diseases such as “polio, leprosy, river blindness, elephantiasis and AIDS” have been on the decline over the last 35 to 40 years. At the same time, there is evidence “when parents are confident their children will survive and have access to birth control, they have fewer children.” Such evidence runs contrary to those who argue, ”if we save children’s lives, the result will be a population crisis that will cause new famines.” See Kristoff’s article.
Project Drawdown provides further evidence of the potential of educating and empowering women. The Project is a climate change mitigation project founded by environmentalist Paul Hawken and climate activist Amanda Joy Ravenhill.
Project Drawdown developed a list of the “100 most substantive solutions to global warming.” A team of more than 200 scholars, scientists, policymakers, business leaders and activists developed and compiled the list. They measured and modeled each solution’s carbon impact through the year 2050, including the total and net cost to society and lifetime savings of each.
They published their findings in Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever to Reverse Global Warming, in 2017. The book presents 80 solutions ranked by their projected effectiveness to reduce total atmospheric carbon dioxide. It quantifies each solution in gigatons. A gigaton is “a unit of explosive force equal to one billion tons of TNT.”
The project has eight sectors, each containing several subtopics. The sectors are buildings and cities, energy, food, land use, materials, transport, women and girls and “coming attractions.” Out of the 80, educating girls and family planning rank 6 and 7 in importance, respectively.
Solutions prior to those two are No. 1 refrigeration (materials), No. 2 onshore wind turbines (energy), No. 3 reduced food waste (food), No. 4 plant-rich diet (food) and No. 5 tropical forests (land use). Family planning and educating girls each show a reduction of 59.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In addition, a third subsection, women smallholders (No. 62), referring to the ability of women to own land and manage farms with resources equal to those typically given to men, shows a reduction of 2.06 gigatons. Total: 121.26 gigatons.
Importance of Educating Girls and Women
While the statistics in the book are intrinsic to understanding the most effective solutions to reverse global warming, in many instances, these solutions offer a vital impact on the quality of life – most intrinsic to the section on women and girls. With education and resources for family planning, a young woman no longer has to bear unwanted children that may preclude her ability to pursue work to enhance her family’s standard of living. She may, therefore, live a healthier, more satisfying life. She may not be subject to domination by the men in her family and community. Her opportunity to attend school may not be precluded by family resources going to her brothers for their education. She may be able to manage her small farm, rather than work as an underling in a male farmer’s plot.
The women smallholders subsection states “countries that have higher levels of gender equality have higher average cereal yields; high levels of inequality correlate with the opposite outcome.” Also, “when women earn more, they reinvest 90 percent of the money they make into education, health and nutrition for their families and communities, compared to 30-40 percent for men. With this solution, human well-being and climate are tightly linked, and what is good for equity is good for the livelihoods of all genders.” Although the reduction of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere plays a key role in the solutions portrayed in “Drawdown,” the value of human well-being cannot be minimized.
Agencies Out Front Educating Girls and Women
What agencies come to mind that play a key role in supporting these solutions involving women and girls? One is Planned Parenthood, which provides care with regard to the right to abortion and sex education of the young. It also reaches across Africa and Latin America in partnership with more than 120 organizations in those countries.
Further investigation reveals more resources. UNGEI (U.N. Girls Education Initiative), with a global advisory committee, has more than 30 partners. Of those, Action Aid (actionaid.org) deals with girls’ rights to education in many countries. Another, The Brookings Institution (brookings.edu/topic/ education/), features an extensive article on its website: “Girls’ Education in Climate Strategies” (Dec. 10, 2019). Find comprehensive and global strategies online at https://www.brookings.edu/research/girls-education-in-climate-strategies/. It is worth the time to read and learn about this important subject.
Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, February 5, 2020. Email Joy Danzig at firstname.lastname@example.org.