Hundreds of millions of women and girls are currently trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, with limited resources and choices. In fact, as I learned in class, 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in the deepest level of poverty worldwide are women. This provides a dilemma when considering who will face the costs of climate change first. The fact is that women are carrying the burden of climate change consequences – climate change is not gender neutral. This consequently has a ripple effect that impacts entire communities and countries socially, economically, and environmentally. This relationship between population and the environment are inextricably connected and they affect each other on many levels, starting with an increased use of resources.
There is not always one solution, but ethically combating climate change with education is an important step. A girl has not control over her life when she lives in poverty. Yet, an educated woman will less likely be faced with HIV, youth marriages and pregnancy, and hunger. Without all of these pressures, she is able to thrive. Education will lead to the knowledge of family planning and empowerment, and thus be able to control when they are having children and how often. She can give more attention to the children already has. She will more likely encourage them to go to school as well. They can build a life that does not revolve around the vicious cycle of poverty. The girl effect.
Putting aside the fact that educating poverty-stricken girls to improve their lifestyle, what does this have to do with environment? The growth of population has been inextricably linked to deforestation and the decline of fresh water availability. However, women have great adaptive capacity and are essential as leaders. If a woman’s life is changed simply by education, her resilience will spread to her community. Women are most often the population gathering domestic resources for her family – she is seeing the effects of population increase on the resources she depends on to sustain her family. Women can create the adaptive and mitigation changes that are needed in the world; they just need the appropriate resources, starting with the education and promotion of women.