By Leah Block, first-year student at North Carolina State University
People look at me funny when I say I’m trying to find a career that incorporates both environmentalism and women’s rights. To me, the connection has always been so clear; if women are empowered, the environment will thrive. For one, the world-wide annual carbon footprint now averages 4 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per person per year, and the average annual carbon footprint in industrialized nations is a whopping 11 tons of CO2 per person per year . Women play a key role in population control, and therefore a key role in the mitigation of these statistics.
There are many ways to go about women’s empowerment, but when it comes to climate change, the most important step is giving women proper access to education. When girls go to school, not only do they learn about family planning skills, they are also far more likely to go into the working world. This puts off child-bearing for a number of years, and lowers the average size of families.
Another important step in the empowerment of women is one that’s a little more complicated due to cultural differences and expenses. Ensuring access to reproductive health – that is, access to birth control, contraceptives, and abortion care – is critical in reducing the average family size. In some developing countries, the average family includes 6 to 8 children. If we look at our average carbon footprint per person, 4 tons of CO2 per year, a family of 8 would produce 32 tons of CO2 per year. This astonishingly high statistic could be prevented simply by assuring that women in developing countries have access to condoms, birth control pills, or IUDs. Certain organizations such as Ipas work to ensure that women in developing countries have these rights, which is a great step towards a more stable environment for us all.
A less discussed factor on this topic is the fact that women are responsible for most of the global farm work. In general, food production can be sustainable; unfortunately, food production in both developed and developing countries tends to be on the unsustainable side. A good example of poor agricultural practice is the deforestation of humid and semi-humid tropical rainforests, which are the world’s largest biomass reservoir. In fact, rainforests absorb about 8.8 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, making them a crucial component to Earth’s well-being. Farmers, many of them being women, clear-cut these forests to make room for new crops and pastures after “using up” land; that is, after depleting the soil of its nutrients. Going into countries where unsustainable practices are happening and reaching out to the women who manage food production is vital to the reduction of CO2 emissions, and therefore mitigating the effects of global climate change. Some sustainable tactics to teach these women include crop rotation, cover crops, soil enrichment, and Biointensive Integrated Pest Management.
Undoubtedly, when women receive proper care, the Earth receives proper care. The people who do not see an overlap between women’s rights and the well-being of Earth need to look a little closer. I am confident that I will create a career for myself which involves my two passions and betters the world in the long-run.
This post is part of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina’s Student Perspectives on Reproductive Justice blog series. To write a post for the series, please contact our Advocacy & Organizing Manager at Sarah@ProChoiceNC.org.