Donald Trump announced on June 1, 2017 that our country will no longer adhere to the Paris Agreement. Leaving the group of 196 countries is more symbolic of the administration’s tendency to adopt backwards policies than it is actually threatening to the environment, as the agreement doesn’t call for taking any action until the year 2020, however, stepping back before we even start sets a dangerous precedent for the U.S. and for developing countries looking to superpowers like us for guidance.
Fortunately, there is action we can take to combat climate change. While richer countries are accustomed to long lists on how to “go green,” a new idea in environmentally-minded circles has emerged recently that every country in the world can engage in:
Educating girls may be the key to slowing climate change.
Today, 32 million primary school-aged girls are missing out on their education worldwide. 98 million more won’t receive a secondary education. That’s a huge loss not only for them but for our planet, as educated women tend to have fewer children and postpone motherhood until later in life. One fewer person on the planet would reduce global carbon emissions by 20 times more than would the typical methods of slowing change that we so often hear in the West.
The families of educated women are not only smaller but healthier, too, and more likely to receive their own education. Education helps destroy the systems that keep people in poverty and leads to a great number of skilled professionals developing societies, including much-needed female voices in politics. These factors combat overpopulation and thus carbon emissions as well as promote a higher quality of life, from better nutrition to more established governments. This, too, promotes global development, which will likely involve a switch to renewable energy sources in the future.
Education is important for everyone, regardless of gender. So why focus on girls?
Females face more marginalization and significant obstacles than do boys when it comes to education. In developing countries, girls face violence and sexual assault even on their way to school. Girls living in poverty also may not have access to feminine hygiene products during their menstrual cycle or their area may stigmatize menstruation, so females may miss a week of school each month during their period. That could cause them to fall behind in school, which often leads to high dropout rates.
Studies by poverty-fighting microfinancing groups such as Grameen Bank have found that women also spend money more wisely than do men, opting to pay for food, education, and investments like farming or starting small businesses. Men are more likely to squander money on luxury items. Even the Gates Foundation advocates for “empower[ing] the poorest, especially women and girls, to transform their lives.”
Universal education and empowerment should be global efforts, but we need to start with the group that’s been pushed behind: women and girls. The planet will thank us.
Here are some organizations currently working to provide girls with quality education for free or reduced costs.
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