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In the face of climate change, all manner of innovative, futuristic solutions have been proposed. A recent study in Nature Climate Change suggests one method for fighting environmental decay that’s much more straightforward.
It’s simple: include women.
A study published in a leading scientific journal has established a correlation between the presence of women in the green movement and the success of the movement’s efforts. In this study, researchers randomly divided nearly 500 forest users based in Peru, Tanzania, and Indonesia into groups. The researchers assigned gender quotas, which mandated that at least 50 percent of the group members be women, to half the groups — and doing so, it turns out, made a huge difference.
These groups were tasked with establishing extraction and conservation guidelines for their forests, and their results differed notably with the quota implementation. Groups with the quota not only conserved more trees in response to implementation of financial incentives, but they also divided payment more equally among group members. The study’s authors attribute this conservational success and fairer payment division to the mere inclusion of women rather than the presence of women as leaders.
The study’s research team, comprised of researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder, intends to affirm that financial and legislative incentives to include men and women in environmental sustainability efforts will increase these pursuits’ successes. According to senior study author Kristen Andersson, gender makeup in conservation policy isn’t considered nearly often enough. Her team’s study, she said to CU Boulder Today, indicates that gender quotas can have a profound impact on such policies and should be implemented widely.
To best understand how this study came to its conclusions, it’s worthwhile to examine the experiment’s actual methodology. Andersson and her teammates tasked the study’s groups with determining how many trees should be removed from a “community forest.” For every tree harvested, a group would be paid five tokens. However, a choice to remove no trees at all would earn a group a full 160 tokens. According to the study’s lead author Nathan Cook, the introduction of these financial incentives made massive differences in reducing the number of trees cut by the groups with gender quotas. Without these incentives, all groups, regardless of whether a gender quota was imposed on them, made similar decisions about harvesting versus conserving trees.
The research is based on real-life initiatives deployed throughout the world. In heavily-forested countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, and Ecuador, authorities have established programs formally known as Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). Under PES, the people who manage forests are paid to conserve their natural resources, such as trees, rather than using them for economic and industrial gains. Those who make such conservation decisions are often not women, although some countries are pushing to include women in these choices. In India, Rwanda, and Argentina, local legislatures empowered to make such conservation decisions mandate that at least 30 percent of seats go to women. The study’s authors hope that other nations will follow this bold example.