Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafzai & AOC (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) are leading the way when it comes to saving our planet but it is the 130 million girls between the age of 6 and 17 that are out of school and the 15 million girls of primary school age that will never enter a classroom that can save our planet.

We live in an extremely unequal world and it is getting worse. Hundreds of millions of people are living in extreme poverty. Just one example of this is The World Health Organization estimates that 3.575 million people die every year from not having clean water to drink.

There is extreme poverty everywhere but in this article, I am referring to the collective extreme poverty that only exists in the third world.

A young girl living in a small village in Sub-Saharan Africa that doesn’t have access to clean water and sanitation will probably always be hungry.

The average annual income in Sub-Saharan Africa is $2,041, elementary school will cost about $350 so her parents will struggle to send even one child to school and since boys are deemed more valuable, her brother will go.

She will never learn how to read or write instead she will work long hours to help support her brother’s education.

She will be married and have children in her early to mid-teens and if the children are girls, then their situation will resemble hers, let’s not forget that complications during pregnancy are the leading cause of death for girls aged 15-19 globally so there is a very good chance her children will grow up without a mother making their chances even worse.

Now cast your mind back to October 2012 when a masked gunman boarded a school bus and asked, “Who is Malala?” And then shot her in the head. The reason … for the defying the Taliban in Pakistan and demanding that girls be allowed to receive an education. This couldn’t stop Malala and despite continued death threats she leads the fight for girls to receive an education and has become the youngest ever Nobel Laureate.

There are so many reasons why girls do not get the education that is their human right poverty, early marriage, child labour and conflict are some. 

Secondary education for girls can transform communities, countries and our world. It is an investment in economic growth, a healthier workforce, lasting peace and the future of our planet.

As Christopher Hitchens once said “The cure for poverty has a name, in fact: it’s called the empowerment of women” the education of girls is a tried and tested way to cure poverty but often overlooked is it’s effectiveness as a solution to the climate crisis. 

A coalition of scientists, economists, policymakers, researchers, and business people published Project Drawdown, a list of the most viable solutions to climate change.

The education of girls and family planning ranked 6th and 7th respectively on this list. This may seem very high so let me explain the rationale.

Educating girls gives them the freedom to make decisions to improve their lives, which has deep social implications. According to the World Bank Giving giving girls access to schooling is a central part of eradicating global poverty, as better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in formal labour markets, have fewer children and marry later.  

Project Drawdown

Girls’ education goes beyond getting girls into school. It is also about ensuring that girls learn and feel safe while in school; complete at least 12 years of education learning the skills to effectively compete in the labor market and learning the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to our rapidly changing world. They are better equipped to make decisions about their own lives and contribute to their communities and the world. 

Increased adoption of reproductive healthcare and family planning is an essential component to achieve the United Nations’ 2015 medium global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050. 

Project Drawdown

The education of girls also shores up resilience and equips girls and women to face the impacts of climate change. They can be more effective stewards of food, soil, trees, and water, even as nature’s cycles change. They have greater capacity to cope with shocks from natural disasters and extreme weather events. 

Carbon Offsetting is a reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases made in order to compensate for emissions made elsewhere.

As the market matures, so the choice of ways to offset emissions increases. You can now offset rail, road and air journeys, your stay in a holiday hotel, your daily commute, your home heating – indeed you could offset the emissions of your whole life.

You could plant a tree, reduce the amount of methane emitted from a waste dump, provide clean cook stoves, or reforest areas of the Amazon basin home to communities of indigenous peoples.

Personally I think we should invest in the education of girls.

The humanitarian consequences of the climate crisis are terrifying and include:

Human health risks Diseases. such as cholera, malaria and dengue fever, will likely increase in some areas as a result of changing temperatures; diarrhoea-related diseases and malnutrition could also climb.

Diminished food security and water supply. Desertification and drought could threaten the livelihoods of over 1 billion people in more than 110 countries, particularly in semi-arid regions.

Rising sea levels. Coastal cities and countries with low coastal areas could be in danger; the Bahamas, Viet Nam, Egypt and Bangladesh are among those at high risk.

Threats to peace and security. Scarcity of key resources, including water, could exacerbate tensions between ethnic groups, countries and regions as they compete for, and adjust to, different environments and resources. Darfur and Sri Lanka are two examples of this potential scenario.

Increased migration and displacement. Populations affected by rising seas, flooding, drought or desertification leave their lands at risk, either voluntarily or by coercion. Some analysts predict we could see up to 50 million environmental refugees by the end of the decade. Environment-related migration has been most acute in sub-Saharan Africa, but also affects millions of people in Asia and India.

As you can probable see the impact will disproportionally affect the poorest. Another particularly unequal part of our world is that the climate crisis will affect the countries and people who did least to create it. So I conclude where we started, extreme poverty, the climate crisis is far greater than just climate it is also a humanitarian crisis.  

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” When you educate a girl, you can save our planet, literally.

Please check out:

Project Drawdown

The Malala Foundation

The Climate Reality Project

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