Want to save the world? Here’s how to do it: become a champion of women’s rights.

Check out this NY Times article, The Women’s Crusade

Some particularly interesting quotes from the article:

“The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine “gendercide” far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.”

“WHY DO MICROFINANCE organizations usually focus their assistance on women? And why does everyone benefit when women enter the work force and bring home regular pay checks? One reason involves the dirty little secret of global poverty: some of the most wretched suffering is caused not just by low incomes but also by unwise spending by the poor – especially by men. Surprisingly frequently, we’ve come across a mother mourning a child who has just died of malaria for want of a $5 mosquito bed net; the mother says that the family couldn’t afford a bed net and she means it, but then we find the father at a nearby bar. He goes three evenings a week to the bar, spending $5 each week.”

“Bill Gates recalls once being invited to speak in Saudi Arabia and finding himself facing a segregated audience. Four-fifths of the listeners were men, on the left. The remaining one-fifth were women, all covered in black cloaks and veils, on the right. A partition separated the two groups. Toward the end, in the question-and-answer session, a member of the audience noted that Saudi Arabia aimed to be one of the Top 10 countries in the world in technology by 2010 and asked if that was realistic. “Well, if you’re not fully utilizing half the talent in the country,” Gates said, “you’re not going to get too close to the Top 10.” The small group on the right erupted in wild cheering.”

I [heart] Bill Gates!

One thing the article didn’t mention was something that anthropologists know, but many laypeople do not: in countries where women have sufficient rights to control their reproduction and support themselves economically, birth rates fall dramatically. Thus, countries impoverished by having more population than their natural resources support (often exacerbated by environmental degradation, caused, again, by overpopulation) could solve that problem by ending the oppression of women.

Quote from Mother Nature by anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy:

“Around the world, there is a tendency for people who are better off to have a lower birthrate. This tendency is evident among peasant women in India as well as women in industrialized societies. Witness the declining birthrates in Japan, or the below-replacement fertility that has long characterized modern France and Italy and is increasingly true in established populations in the United States. Wherever women have both control over their reproductive opportunities and a chance to better themselves, women opt for well-being and economic security over having more children.”

Women’s rights. If we ever save the world, that will be how we do it.