Saturday, July 10, 2010

Women, Reproduction, and Climate Change

UNFPA - World Population Day 2010
Gender equity, women's sexual health, and reproductive rights have a direct effect on rising population which significantly affects climate change.

Incredibly, these very issues were missing from the agenda of the conference on emissions reduction in Copenhagen in December (2009). They were missing from the UN summit on climate change held in NYC in September 2009.

In her article "Factoring People Into Climate Change" in The Nation, Barbara Crossette discusses the connection between reproductive/women's rights and the environment and the reasons for silence about them at summits and conferences.

NGO activists see the connection and
UN officials are largely on the same page. Helen Clark, the new administrator of the UN Development Program, said at the Berlin forum that "educating women and families in the developing world on the number of children they actually wish to have, improving the health of women and promoting gender equality, reducing poverty and hunger, and mitigating climate change" form a virtuous circle.

Governments, however, disagree and wish to leave population off the agenda, especially India, which sees any discussion of population control as the West attempting to block its growth. India's influence among other developing nations ensures the continued absence of population and related women's and reproductive issues from conference agendas.

The refusal to discuss women's sexual health, gender equity, and reproductive rights does not surprise me; both traditional societies and more advanced ones stumble when it comes to granting full agency, personhood, and autonomy to women. Maybe we will literally go up in flames rather than grant women full, functioning equality!

Barbara Crossette's article is very worth reading.

She is also the author of So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas (1995) and The Great Hill Stations of Asia (1998).

(This is a re-post for World Population Day, which is tomorrow, July11.)


Owen Gray said...

Isn't it interesting that so much of our global and individual futures are in the hands of our wives, mothers and sisters?

With so much at stake, it's time to give these issues serious thought.

ChrisJ said...


Exactly, and, I think, that's why there is so much angst - religious and otherwise - about the freedom of reproductive rights.

Pearl said...

yes, why this should be even an issue baffles me. why there's such a skew in gender in policy makers shouldn't make a differences since men often are raised by a mom, alongside a sister and have female friends. how does the understanding loop open and spill like that?

one sidenote, which I don't have enough evidence to weigh is in the opening chapters of Straw Dogs. John Gray says that fertility rates are falling as a product of overpopulation and the capacity to reproduce automatically checks itself biologically, as it does in other animals.

ChrisJ said...


It sounds reasonable - what John Gray says.

I was going to suggest that feminism is an evolutionary adaptation with one effect, among many, of reducing the population.