Why Empowering Women Could Save the World

 

Overpopulation. It’s a hard topic to talk about. Many people, especially those living in democratic countries, see something innately wrong with trying to restrict family size. It goes against our inalienable right to have as many children as we please. When the one-child policy in China hit western ears, world leaders were outspoken about this human rights issue. But from one westerner to another (I’m just assuming here), I agree with China’s policy-with some severe qualifications.

The Earth isn’t getting any healthier. In fact, it’s declining rapidly. And people are not having any less kids. In fact, population size is booming. In the long-run, however, we are at a percentage decline in population. Essentially, right now the population of the Earth is getting bigger everyday. In the long term, however, the overall percentage of population growth is starting to decrease. This can be attributed to contraceptives and the empowerment of women. Yes, the problem of the environment, like so many other problems, can be saved by women.

There are a lot of reasons why the Earth is a literal crap-hole right now, but one massive reason is there are simply too many of us. In 1798, Thomas Malthus published his population theory. He claimed the population continues to grow at a positive rate till it is checked by a natural disaster (famine, flood, disease etc.). This is mostly due to the fact that while population growth is exponential, food production is linear. With the Green Revolution, however, his theory was disproved. With technology, humans were able to increase the production of food as the population increased. This is not to say that there are not people starving out there; simply, there are much less people starving then what Malthus predicted. Neo-malthusians, a term first used in the late 1800s, believe that while food production may not be linear, the Earth does have a finite amount of resources, and when they run out the world will be lead to famine and war. This is where I believe we are headed. In close to 5 years, 1.8 billion people will struggle to access clean drinking water. That is over one fifth of the world’s population. Say you readers of this article live in Country A. You may think this will not affect you, and you are probably right. You will still have access to fresh drinking water in 5 years. Countries B-H, however, have run out. They now want your water, but country A only has enough to give to its own people. Thus, WWIII begins.

Clean energy and clean methods of water filtration take a lot of time and produce less than their emissions-producing alternatives. Even if the technology is able to advance, as it did in the Green Revolution, to clean the air and water, it will still not be able to produce enough for the current population. Further, the Green Revolution is a perfect example of technology solving one population problem while creating another. Although it created more food, it did so by creating chemical fertilizers and genetically modified plants. While the jury is still out on GMOS (they’re most likely okay), these fertilizers have led to acidic runoff and nitrification of water. This leads to destruction of aquatic life near bays and coastlines, which can lead to a drop in tourism for local businesses. The Revolution also led to monoculturarization which is the production of one type crop instead of cultivating a variety of crops together, which leads to the fragility of the food supply. If the one crop is susceptible to a disease, then the entire crop fails and there is no food left. The advancements have also led to higher carbon emissions as well as large useage of nonrenewable resources. Long story short, it had its up and its downs, but technology is only a band aid to a larger problem. Overpopulation.

We have too many people for the Earth to support. Hardin explains this far more eloquently in his article on the Tragedy of the Commons, a concept that explains how humans will always act selfishly to create the highest personal benefit while depleting the overall community’s benefit. We are trained to act like that. Scientists have warned and warned, and we have done nothing. We will not change our selfishness just to help the common good. Therefore, something else must be done.

The most effective way to control population is to empower women. Allowing women to have access to contraceptives is not always enough. Many countries have stigmas against women using birth control or leaving the domestic sphere. There has to be a full revolution of the place of women in society. Even in the US, women have this facade that they can have both a career and a family, but both are rarely done simultaneously. Japan is a country where women primarily are having careers and not having families. This is the extreme side that countries will have to take in order to enact change. Their growth rate has gone into the negatives, meaning they are losing their population at a faster rate than babies are being born. While this has led to issues of geriatric care, reforms can be set to ensure proper care happens in the future. Women should be advancing in society regardless of if it helps solve climate change. The fact that the two may go hand in hand will only help promote each other’s cause.

The world is crumbling at its core, and within the next 40 years it’s going to reach a climax of destruction. I am not suggesting that we will be able to completely change the status of women and decrease the population so severely within that time span. I am merely stating that if we somehow come out of this climate disaster because of some short-term solution technology, we will need to completely change our lifestyle. The only long-term solution to climate change is to decrease the population. Our Earth was not built for all these people.