I’ve just about finished my first class on Coursera: Introduction to Sustainable Development.
It’s been an interesting class. In the way of environmental studies, it can be a bit depressing hearing about all the ways we’re killing the planet and about the vast inequalities among people. (Of course, if you’re paying attention, you know that anyway.) However, sustainable development is really an interdisciplinary area, a combination of environmental science, economics, anthropology, history, cultural studies, etc. And it has plenty of practical thinking mixed in–the point isn’t just to examine the ways in which the Anthropocene is utterly screwed, it’s to figure out how we can ameliorate the damage we’ve done to the world and to each other.
This latter aspect is really what interested me. While it seems clear that some degree of climate change will happen–not to mention the depletion of biodiversity and natural resources–it’s also still possible for us a species to minimize some of the damage.
One of the major ways to curb our impact is naturally to curb our population growth. And in the middle of the lecture, the professor dropped this truth bomb: one of the necessary ways to curb population growth and engage in sustainable development is gender equality.
It’s funny because–like the most of the class–there’s nothing terribly new about this idea. If women have consistent access to education and good health care, are able to participate equally in their local economies, and marry after the age of sixteen, population growth slows to a sustainable rate.
It shouldn’t have shocked me to hear this delivered so clearly and objectively from a white, male academic and yet…it did. Because we spend so much time arguing about this in the U.S. Legislators try to curb women’s healthcare. The pay gap persists. Feminists–whose primary goal is the above–are attacked and demonized. It’s so contentious that you begin to feel that everything is subjective. You’re just a point of view clashing with another point of view.
But there are objective realities, confirmed by multiple disciplines. And the fact is simple: gender equality is good for everyone.
Which I know you knew. Consider this your reminder and encouragement–don’t let anyone make you doubt it or forget it.
And the wonderful thing is, we can help. We can make a Kiva loan. Or help girls go to school in Afghanistan. In Liberia. We can support women’s healthcare in this country and elsewhere. Change is within reach.
What are your favorite gender equality projects?