It’s no secret that women can change the world—but in this critical time of climate crisis, we may also be able to save our earth.
Our life-giving home is under serious duress. According to the most recent reports from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is currently higher than it’s ever been over the last two million years. The world is getting warmer—up 1.5 degrees Celsius in only the last century—and it’s wreaking havoc on our ecosystems. More severe storms, animal extinctions, increased droughts and famine, wildfires, and flooding have become commonplace.
All of this overwhelming information is scary enough that it can be tempting to put our heads in the sand, but work from climate nonprofits like Project Drawdown show that there are measurable steps that can help not only halt but reverse this damage—and that women and girls are essential for leading the way.
Centered on plans outlined by the 2017 New York Times bestseller Drawdown, Project Drawdown is the world’s leading resource for science-based climate solutions. Daniel Jasper, policy advisor for the nonprofit, explains, “What this means in practice is that our scientists work to provide a comprehensive set of climate solutions that include all the relevant sectors such as electricity production, agriculture, health and education.”
Here’s why Project Drawdown believes the empowerment of women and girls is crucial to reversing climate change—and what we can do in our everyday life to help heal our planet.
Women and the Climate are Inextricably Linked
“There are two powerful phenomena unfolding on earth: The rise of global warming and the rise of women and girls. The link between them is often overlooked, but gender equity is a key answer to our planetary challenge,” explains Dr. Katharine Wilkinson, former Editor-in-Chief of Project Drawdown in her 2018 TEDWomen talk. “Drawing down emissions depends on rising up.”
The climate solutions outlined by Project Drawdown fall into three main categories: reducing sources of greenhouse gasses, supporting sinks of carbon dioxide (aka anything like forests, oceans, and vegetation that holds more carbon than it releases), and improving society. While the most obvious link to women’s empowerment is societal, Jasper says, “Gender equality needs to be integrated into every level of our response.”
How Empowering Women Can Help Climate Change
So what does the link between women’s empowerment and climate improvement look like in the real world? For starters, it’s important to acknowledge that reversing climate change is not up to women alone. As Wilkinson says, “This does not mean women and girls are responsible for fixing everything, although we probably will.” This simply means that elevating women’s rights and voices can help repair our society and our earth in a number of meaningful ways, including these key pillars:
1. More prosperous farming.
There’s a mistaken stereotype of farming as traditional “men’s work”—but in practice that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Women are the primary farmers of the world, responsible for up to 80 percent of the crops in lower-income countries. At the same time, while women are responsible for the food we put on our plates, female farmers face constant discrimination, including less access to land rights and technology.
If women in the agricultural space are given equal rights, Project Drawdown projects that farm yields will rise by 20 to 30 percent. Higher yields mean a reduced risk of famine and better preservation of forests and other untouched lands. This step alone could prevent up to 2 billion tons of emissions—on par with the impact of household recycling… mind blown.
2. Better family planning.
“To have children by choice rather than by chance is a matter of autonomy and dignity,” says Wilkinson. Still, all around the world—and right here in the United States—women and girls lack the access we need to education, healthcare, and contraception in order to preserve this basic human right. An estimated 130 million girls are still denied the ability to attend schools, a devastating number that has widespread outcomes, including pressure to marry younger and bear more children, regardless of their personal goals or desires.
Additionally, roughly 257 million women around the world who wish to avoid pregnancy don’t have access to safe contraception—and a devastating 25 percent feel they are not able to say no to sex. If women are granted autonomy over their own bodies and reproduction, this could mean avoiding 120 billion tons of carbon emissions over the next 30 years.
3. Female leadership.
It’s just a fact: Women get sh*t done. We represent critical voices in the fight against climate change—yet far too often we are silenced, left out of the conversation, not given a seat at the table. In fact, only a measly 0.2 percent of philanthropic funds currently go to support women and the environment.
Wilkinson says, “These dynamics are not only unjust; they are setting us up for failure.” Jasper says that female leadership can be a powerful change agent. “Women are often at the frontlines of change. As a male vegan, I know how reluctant (even hostile) a lot of men are to the idea of changing their diets [for example]. I’m willing to bet that things like that will change as women lead the way and the overall public sentiment shifts.”
What You Can Do Today to Improve the Climate Crisis
While Project Drawdown outlines more than 90 practical solutions to help improve global warming, Jasper says, “One of the biggest things we’ll have to change is our mindset.” He explains that all of us must take on the responsibility of saving our planet. “That type of mentality is infectious.” Instead of being terrified of the future, we can think of how lucky we are to be in this moment where our actions can make a major impact. He explains that we can “recognize that this is not a burden, but a privilege and a call to serve in the highest sense of the word.”
Jasper recommends starting with small steps to integrate climate-friendly habits into your daily life. This can look like:
- Limiting meat consumption and opting for a plant-rich diet
- Reducing food waste Reducing plastic use and consumption
- Biking or carpooling
- Installing LED lighting Options for solar hot water or heat pumps
- Installing a smart thermostat
- Staying aware of local government decision-making
- Exploring options that speak to your personality and interests
Choosing natural fabrics (like BRANWYN’s naturally sustainable Merino Performance Innerwear) and companies that rely on craft manufacturing, thereby avoiding the waste created by fast fashion can help, too.
Most importantly remember that the future of the earth is in our hands—and women are absolutely critical in this fight. As Wilkinson notes: “We are a life force.”