Activist Asserts Contraceptives for ‘Women and Girls’ Will Reduce Carbon Emissions

By Penny Starr | February 27, 2012 | 5:41pm EST

Kavita Ramdas, executive director of the Program for Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University, spoke on Feb. 27, 2012 at the Woodrow Wilson Center about how contraceptive use can help combat climate change. ( Starr)

( – Giving women and girls access to contraceptives is good for them and it's also good for the planet, activist Kavita Ramdas said at a discussion about “women’s health” and “climate adaptation” at the Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

"[E]mpowering women to time their pregnancies would reduce carbon emissions significantly," said Ramdas, referencing several studies that make that point.

Ramdas also wrote about this topic in an article posted on the Wilson Center’s New Security Beat blog in 2010 and distributed at the event. Ramdas is the executive director of the Program for Social Entrepreneurship at Stanford University.

“These groundbreaking studies have rigorously quantified the effect on the environment of helping women and girls control their reproductive destinies,” Ramdas wrote.

Ramdas said the studies –  “The World Population Prospects and Unmet Need for Family Planning” by the Futures Group, and “Global Demographic Trends and Future Carbon Emissions” by the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis – “demonstrate that giving women and girls access to contraception offers a precious co-benefit: a substantial reduction in carbon emissions.”

“The logic is simple: When women have the power to plan their families, populations grow more slowly, as do greenhouse gas emissions,” Ramdas wrote.

At Monday’s discussion, which included Daniel Schensul, a “technical specialist” with the climate change, population and development branch of the United Nations Population Fund, Ramdas said educating women around the world is no longer about the stereotypical “12-year-old in pigtails” in a classroom, but should include sex education.

Condoms. (AP Photo)

“There’s nothing messy about a 12-year-old girl in pigtails -- a sexually active 14-year-old, a 16-year-old -- as any of you who have teenage children can attest to -- is full of her own sexuality.

“[She] is not just some innocent waiting to be raped or, you know, put upon – [she] has sexual feelings, has sexual desires, is interested in sex, wants to have it, and needs to know how to have it in ways that are good for her health, for her pleasure and to understand that that sexuality’s as true for young men of her age,” Ramdas said. "This is not something we want to discuss. So sex education is also off the table."

Ramdas and the other panelists argued that providing “family planning,” including contraceptives, to the 215 million women in the United States and around the world who do not have access to birth control needs to be part of the strategy for combating climate change.

Ramdas has repeated that view in articles like the one she wrote for the Wilson Center and in speeches, including one she made in 2010 at a Planned Parenthood event in Texas.

“What’s good for women is good for the planet,” Ramdas said.

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