Shaping a Living World: Part 5-A

Hello again folks,

I have a big post coming up (much bigger than my usual) on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I will be talking about Goal #5 – Gender Equality. In the coming article I will be talking about Women’s Rights and LGBT+ Rights.

In preparation for that piece (which I am hoping to post on Wednesday), I asked some of my Facebook friends if they wanted to weigh in on some of the points raised in response to the SDG’s. Two friends of mine weighed in, and with their permission I am going to post their statements for full context before publishing my own piece, that way I can link back to them when I use excerpts.

The first is from Lupa, who is a bisexual woman, and artist/author over at The Green Wolf.  Do be sure to check out her work!

What follows is Lupa’s full statement;

The fact that the UN recognizes gender equality as essential to sustainability is a big deal. At a time when women worldwide are still being oppressed* in numerous ways, to include in my own home country of the United States, it’s heartening to see this level of intersectionality in environmental justice. I would love to see all of their Goal 5 objectives met in my lifetime, but I’d be content just seeing “universal access to sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights” come to fruition by 2030.

See, the thing is, no one wants to talk about the impact that having children has on women. It is absolutely your right to reproduce if that’s what you want, but it’s also your right to say no to reproduction, even if you want to keep having sex. There are women out there who had more children than they would have preferred to because they didn’t have access to birth control and/or because they were victims of reproductive coercion. The same goes for some women who really didn’t want children at all, but who ended up with them for similar reasons.

The goal, of course, is to raise the standard of living for everyone, and a great way to do that is to have fewer people to divide resources among. Yes, we need to focus on using fewer resources per person and using what we do have more reasonably and efficiently, but even when you’re living in really sustainable circumstances every additional person increases the demand for basic things like food, water and space to live. It’s just a matter of math. In areas where people live on pretty meager rations you still get deforestation and other habitat loss as the population grows. Studies show that when women have universal access to birth control, the birth rate drops dramatically. That’s good for the planet as well as people.

Moreover, given that women have been frequently left out of discussions on How To Fix Big Problems, getting women more engaged in these things means that we now have twice the number of people to help make the world a better place. It’s not that childrearing is a bad thing; if you raise great kids who are full of empathy, that’s another way to improve the world. But when women are forced to ONLY be mothers and housewives, it limits the ways in which we can contribute as a group, and often our contributions are minimized, especially if we don’t have access to education. When women have birth control and then have fewer kids, it leaves more energy and time for education and community engagement. There’s also more time for having a small business, which can mean opportunities to develop sustainable ways of being.

I do wish there was more explicitly said about including QUILTBAG (queer, undecided, intersex, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, asexual, gay) people in the sustainability goals. They’re already trying to show gender equality through improving the status of women, but they ignore how the oppression of QUILTBAG people (whether female or not) can scupper sustainability efforts in the same way that the oppression of women does. Not only are you keeping a big group of people out of play in finding the solutions for the problems we face and implementing them, but oppressing them also means they’re less likely to find help for other sustainability issues, such as poverty and disability.

When we are all allowed to work together, instead of fighting with each other, we are more effective as communities and as a species. It’s really one of the most remarkable things about Homo sapiens sapiens, in just how intricate our social networks can be, and how deep our empathy may be rooted. By breaking down divisions and celebrating diversity, we are encouraged to cooperate and find joy in each other. We have more time and energy to put toward things that matter, instead of wasting it on hate. And isn’t that pretty damned sustainable?

* I can’t speak directly to the experiences of non-binary people and other folks who don’t fit in a male-female dichotomy, but given that there are plenty of folks who don’t even admit they exist, I think it’s safe to say they deserve gender equality as well.



About Nicholas Haney

I am a writer, author, hunter, craftsman, and student of anthropology/archaeology. View all posts by Nicholas Haney

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