Today is Earth Day 2022, and the theme for this year is #InvestInOurPlanet. How best to invest in our planet? Ensure that young women and girls all over the planet have an education.
As well as being less likely to gain a full education in comparison to their male peers, many governments and organizations including UN Women have noted that “women are increasingly being recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most”. Women are 14 times more likely to die in a natural disaster than men, but women hold less responsibility for global heating. As women are more likely to live in poverty, they are also disproportionately affected by heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme storms. Additionally, recent studies have shown that women in the Global North travel less by car, consume less meat than men and use 70% less energy than their male counterparts. A study surveyed 10,000 people living in G20 countries, and the results highlighted that women, at a higher rate than men, modified their actions and behaviour to decrease their carbon dioxide emissionsby recycling, buying local, and reducing water and meat consumption. Women, on average, are contributing less to climate change, but are affected on average, more by climate change.
This is why the facts and figures that surround women in STEM are so worrying. Women make up just 24% of STEM employees in the UK, for example, with sectors such as engineering having a workforce that is just 11% women. Ensuring more women and girls participate in STEM disciplines is a way to strengthen climate strategies around the globe. With women and girls empowered to take on leadership roles and contribute to climate mitigation and adaptation, it creates opportunities for them to redefine and transform our economies and societies. This empowerment has to start at a young age – with over 130 million girls out of school currently, that’s 130 million opportunities to battle climate change gone.
The youth of our world are already taking strides to battle the #ClimateEmergency. Gen Z is providing inspiration, with 45% having stopped purchasing certain brands because of ethical or sustainability concerns. They are finding their power, starting with supporting businesses who are taking active steps to protect our environment through their practices and climate-friendly investments, and take a stand against those that don’t. Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a 25 year old Ugandan activist, says: “We are a generation of scared people. But we are very persistent. And very united.” This is the kind of vision and ambition necessary to change our planet – to battle both inequality and climate change. If equality was reached in education and schooling, it would be likely that the answers to our climate battle may start to appear too.