Although the world is full of suffering, it is full
also of the overcoming of it.—Helen Keller
Women’s rights, while a noble virtue in itself, might not seem the likely extension of an argument concerning kilowatts and carbon dioxide. But in fact, one could argue that this unexpected key has greater potential for reducing greenhouse gases, preventing resource conflicts, shrinking energy consumption, and improving human well-being than all of the solar cells, wind turbines, and hybrid cars that we could possibly churn out of our manufacturing plants. But is this right? Could empowering girls and women to control their livelihoods and bodies against the legislative, cultural, and economic barriers that still stand in front of them actually be a worthy environmental undertaking? We’ll come back to a rather contentious answer later in this chapter. But to begin, let’s take a look at why this question is itself so controversial.
A subterranean rift is emerging between environmental advocates and women’s rights advocates. And though it hasn’t even touched the