Earth Day 2021 is coming right up, and the celebration will feature three days of climate action starting April 20.
We should be working toward creating a healthier planet every day, but Earth Day is a great opportunity to reflect on where we are and figure out how to chart the best path forward.In addition to cleaning up the damage that has already been done, now is the time to make adjustments that will result in a more sustainable future with equal rights for all. Two contributors to climate change that we must not ignore are overpopulation and gender inequity—read on to see how you can make the most of Earth Day this year by tackling these critical issues.
What’s Happening on Earth Day This Year?
The official theme for Earth Day 2021 is “Restore Our Earth.” There will be thousands of virtual and in-person events held all over the world, ranging from film screenings and art exhibits to community cleanups and environmental rallies. Several live virtual events will feature government leaders, environmental activists, artists, and celebrities.
On the Earth Day website, you can check if there is an event taking place in your community, or you can register a virtual or in-person event of your own.
It’s Time To Bring Overpopulation Into the Earth Day Discussion
Any work to raise the public’s awareness of climate change on Earth Day is important, but it is time to start talking about how overpopulation and gender inequity are also damaging the Earth.
We know that human actions (or inactions, really) are largely responsible for climate change and environmental degradation, which in turn affects our access to clean water, food, and other essential resources. We also know that there are many things we can do both individually and collectively to reduce carbon emissions and mitigate the destruction of the environment, including recycling, eating less meat, driving less, and electing environmentally friendly leaders.
However, one of the easiest ways to significantly reduce your carbon footprint is to have a smaller family. One child born in the US will add approximately 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the average parent’s carbon footprint. Having one fewer child can reduce your footprint to a much greater degree than driving an energy-efficient car or reducing your meat intake.
It makes sense that unsustainable population growth would adversely impact the planet when you consider the massive footprint that even one child can have. More people on the planet means higher rates of fossil fuel emissions, increased strain on our natural resources, and escalated levels of pollution, deforestation, and species extinction.
The good news is that there are several ways to ethically flatten the population growth curve while also attaining gender equality and increasing general well-being.
Women, Girls, and Mother Earth
One of the best ways to lower birth rates and further gender equity is by empowering women and increasing educational opportunities for girls around the world. When girls are given the opportunity to receive a full education, they are less likely to be married young and more likely to delay childbirth and have smaller families.
In addition to increasing access to education, women should also be empowered to use family planning methods to determine the timing and number of children they want to have. If all women had the resources and agency to make these important decisions, it would increase the likelihood that every child would be planned for and wanted.
However, increasing female agency not only requires access to contraceptives and health clinics, but also the dismantling of harmful cultural norms. In many regions of the world, contraceptives are believed to be dangerous or unethical, and wives are often not consulted on issues of family size, sexual and reproductive health, and family planning.
At Population Media Center, we harness the power of storytelling to combat misinformation and deeply ingrained norms in order to encourage positive behavior change in audiences around the world. When women are empowered to plan their families, they can choose to have fewer children and use their resources to make sure the children they do have receive full educations. Smaller family sizes can enable those living with the bare minimum to break out of the cycle of poverty and reduce their environmental impact.
Discover How Overpopulation Impacts the Earth
Earth Day is an excellent time to consider how each of us can be better tenants on our planet. Population growth rates are a major component of the Earth’s well-being, so in addition to joining a community cleanup or attending an environmental rally, consider spending some time understanding the ways in which overpopulation can hinder a sustainable future. Discover the primary causes and effects of overpopulation in our infographic for more!