How Girls, In Particular, Can Help Fix Climate Change
One of the world’s thorniest environmental problems—how to limit its human population—has a gentle solution.
“Over time the world realized that you can’t dictate population size to people,” said Natalia Kanem, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.
“It’s the woman’s choice. And it’s clear that given a choice, women know exactly what they want: they want the number of children that they can support and nurture.”
That choice is often taken from women, Kanem said, while they are still girls.
“When I think of a girl at a fork in the road, if she is married as a child, under the age of 18, her future is pretty much cooked, and it’s a future that’s going to be one of lack of economic possibility.”
When a girl is prevented from achieving her economic possibility—her creative potential—it limits herself, her family, and her society, Kanem said.
But when she attains it: “She gains not only through personal autonomy but also advances in health and education, income and in safety. So she thrives and so too does her family.”
Kanem appeared yesterday at “One Planet, One Future,” also known as the Nobel Prize Summit, with Nobel-winning physicist Steven Chu, who has advocated educating girls as a solution to population growth and climate change.
“You can’t really talk about sustainability until the world population is stabilized,” Chu said. “In societies where there is rapidly increasing prosperity, increasing education especially among women, and having access so they can control their own bodies, what you find is that the world population in those sectors goes down.”
The United Nations Population Fund works on delivering contraception to the 218 million women that Kanem says want contraception but lack access. Project Drawdown has estimated that giving women access to family-planning resources can save 59.6 gigatons of carbon emissions by 2050. Educating girls could cut another 51.48 gigatons.
The Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED) has undertaken that task in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2013 CAMFED began educating young women as agricultural guides, teaching them to promote sustainable agriculture on their own smallholdings and in their communities.