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Health and Education of Girls Highlighted as Part of Climate Solution

Apr 21, 2020

In 2017, the groundbreaking book Drawdown reoriented international dialog about human-forced global climate change. The tome became a New York Times bestseller because it demonstrated, clearly and irrefutably, that humanity could take immediate, practical action to lower our global CO2 emissions — using tools already on hand.

Drawdown educated us that we need not wait for silver-bullet solutions, or miraculous technological breakthroughs. We learned that despair was not necessary, and that the power of many seemingly small changes could add up to a seismic shift towards sustainability. Working together really could lead to a better world.

Now the Drawdown team has released a more complete view of climate solutions, updated specifically for the 2020s. Of course, their goal remains the same: to advance humans’ ability to stop the climb and start the steady decline of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Titled The Drawdown Review, the material presents new solutions and research, but also unveils a simple and powerful framework to think about solving climate change.

The “Drawdown Solutions Framework” is based on understanding all sources of emissions, along with nature’s means of rebalancing the climate system. From that core knowledge comes a three-step conceptual roadmap towards success:

  1. Reduce sources (bringing emissions to zero)
  2. Support sinks (uplifting nature’s carbon cycle)
  3. Improve society (fostering equality for all)

Population Media Center celebrates Project Drawdown’s continued focus on human health and education as part of their solution named “Improve Society.” Particularly important are continued, enhanced, and more vigorous efforts to ensure unrestricted access to high quality, voluntary reproductive healthcare across the planet. Similarly, high quality, inclusive education is a fundamental human right to all people. Importantly, Drawdown notes these two climate solutions are cornerstones of gender equality.

Population Media Center also commends Project Drawdown for bravely advancing the question of “How many people might call this planet home in 2050 or 2100?” Importantly, Drawdown does not ask this question as idle speculation, or as a rhetorical question. Rather, it is thankfully framed as a fundamental and crucially important climate-related question.

The Drawdown Review notes correctly that the answer:

“…will depend, in large part, on fertility rates and the headway we make on securing gender equality and advancing human well-being. When levels of education rise (in particular for girls and young women), access to reproductive healthcare improves, and women’s political, social, and economic empowerment expand, fertility typically falls. Across the world and over time, this impacts population.”

Indeed, in the year 2020, ongoing global increases in population (1.5 million person net growth per week) are driven by a combination of the low status of women and girls, notions of high-desired fertility around the globe, and biases against contraception. The latter is based primarily on rumors, myths, misinformation, and subjugation of women’s preferences that cut across culture and time. (Population momentum — when populations grow even if levels of childbearing are only at replacement level — is also a factor).

In short, many of the current major drivers of global population growth are grounded on social norms or a lack of actionable information (or both). Social norms are the daily habits, unwritten rules, and normalized behaviors that everyone in the community accepts, and to a large degree, expects. Social norms are deeply implicated in the low status of women and girls and high-desired fertility. Robust primary and secondary education and unrestricted access to modern contraception go a long way towards mitigating these climate challenges.

However, achieving these objectives requires more than just building schools or making sure contraceptive supply chains are robust. Instead, to achieve lower global fertility, the world must consciously work to overcome normative and informational obstacles.

Decades of work in the social and behavior change sciences has shown that engaging people with theory-driven entertainment-education can spark emotive, psychological desires to reject oppressive social norms, while also providing the tools and confidence necessary to pioneer new social norms. Moreover, when delivered to large audiences via broadcast media, misinformation, myths, and rumors can be corrected cost-efficiently and without backlash.

Indeed, for more than 20 years, Population Media Center has been working hard to achieve our vision of “A Sustainable Planet with Equal Rights for All,” using our unique entertainment-education storytelling. For example, listeners to our show Pambazuko (“New Dawn”) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were 1.8 times more likely than non-listeners to say that their ideal family size is three children or fewer.

We look forward to contributing to the The Drawdown Review’s plan of action, as it aligns seamlessly with our mission:

To use entertainment-education and mass media to promote social and cultural change by addressing the interconnected issues of the full rights of women and girls, population, and the environment. Our goals are to empower people to live healthier and more prosperous lives and to stabilize global population at a level at which people can live sustainably with the world’s renewable resources.