Educating Women and Girls – Reprised

Educating Women and Girls

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.” – Native American proverb

By Joy Danzig

Earlier this month, the Earth Matters blog published my article, “Educating Women and Girls Amidst Climate Crisis.” It highlighted how educating girls and women could help in the fight against climate change.

The article was based on findings of the landmark book Drawdown, the Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.  Project Drawdown published the book in 2017.  Paul Hawken, a highly regarded environmentalist, edited the book.

Drawdown identified 80 solutions ranked in order of effectiveness. Each solution, when implemented, would lead to a “drawdown” of greenhouse gases. The objective is to reduce (drawdown) the rising levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and then reverse the trend.  There are eight categories, including one titled “Women and Girls.”

Each solution was researched in terms of reduction of CO2, in gigatons; net cost in dollars; and net savings in dollars. The total accounting included heat-trapping greenhouse gases, including methane, nitrous oxide, fluorinated gases and water vapor.

Two solutions, ranked No. 6 and 7, involved educating girls and family planning, respectively.

Educating Girls and Women

On May 18, Crystal Chissell revisited the subject in the article “The Astonishing Climate Effect of Empowering Girls and Women.”  Chissell is vice president of operations and engagement at Project Drawdown. The article streamed on the “We Don’t Have Time” app, found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The article marked the 50th anniversary of Earth Day (to see the article click here).

The opening statements of the article are striking: “Plant-based food, wind turbines and electric cars are often in focus during discussions on climate solutions. So maybe it’s time to highlight an even more important factor: health and education.”

Fighting the Climate Crisis Through Health and Education

Chissell contends we will not solve the climate crisis unless women and girls worldwide have equal rights and opportunities. This solution, which she now describes as “health and education,” is seen as the No. 2 most impactful one, just after No. 1, “Reducing Food Waste.”

Chissell describes the current solution as being more complex, in contrast to those that are focused and technological. This solution involves a sociological phenomenon. It encompasses quality of life, health of families and equality of opportunity for women.  Moreover, it includes equality in business and agricultural endeavors. Most critically, the relationship between their level of education and their engagement in family planning.

The rate of population growth drives the “demand for and consumption of food, transportation, electricity, building space and goods.” An article published May 26 by Resilience.org states: “Almost universally, research since the 1980s shows that women with higher levels of good, quality education marry later and have fewer and healthier children, live longer and enjoy greater economic prosperity. For example, in Mali, women with secondary education or higher have an average of three children, while those with no education have an average of seven children.”

Education Can Help Reduce Population Growth

Further, “The United Nations currently projects that the world’s population will grow from 7.3 billion today to 9.7 billion, with most of the growth being in developing countries. … But recent research shows that if girls’ education continues to expand, that number would total 2 billion fewer people by 2045” (see https://tinyurl.com/y56lrjs6).

Even the statistics regarding greenhouse gases are striking.  Chissell states, “In a scenario where there is investment in family planning and we limit population growth to the UN median population projection, our analyses shows we can avoid up to 85 gigatons of greenhouse gases between now and 2050.”

Educating Women and Girls
Enhancing health and wellbeing is key to overcoming our climate crisis. Education is the essential ingredient.

Chissell believes “solving problems concerning human health and wellbeing is the key to getting more people involved in climate action.”  She adds, on a practical level, “those problems are far more visible than what’s going on up in the sky.”

As we mark the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment giving women in our country the right to vote, it seems fitting that this, a potential solution to “drawdown,” receives renewed attention.

In addition to addressing the subject of women and girls, it is important to understand the very nature of Project Drawdown, which seeks to build on and enhance the findings leading to the 2017 book.

Change is occurring rapidly, as is the search for climate solutions. Visit the website https://www.drawdown.org/. The Drawdown Review, the first major update to research and analysis of climate solutions, is available there.

Support Organizations Educating Women and Girls

To find answers to Chissell’s question “What can we do to enhance global achievement of solutions to our climate crisis?” we can look to organizations supporting girls’ education and health.

Planned Parenthood, for example, reaches across the world. It partners with more than 120 organizations in Africa and Latin America.

The International Alliance of Women, a non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Geneva, is also notable. Its roots go back to International Women’s Suffrage Alliance.  It represents 50 human rights organizations with several hundred thousand members around the globe. For more, see https://womenalliance.org/.

Not only girls and women, everyone will benefit in the not-so-distant future as we approach the achievement of “drawdown.”

Courtesy of the Rossmoor News, September 2, 2020.  Email Joy Danzig at joyfuld@gmail.com

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