Suzanne York is a writer and advocate for women’s reproductive health. A member of the WEN board since 2010, she currently works as senior writer for the Institute for Population Studies in Berkeley (HowMany.org). Suzanne recently returned from the United Nations’ Rio+20 conference in Brazil, where she joined thousands of other advocates gathered to chart a path forward to a more sustainable future. Empowering women in developing nations will be essential, she says. “Study after study shows meeting basic needs helps women and everyone cope with the effects of climate change and protect and manage resources better,” she says. “It is critical that people became better informed on how empowering women leads to healthy families and a sustainable environment.”
Where do you currently work?
I am a writer with the Institute for Population Studies in Berkeley; aka HowMany.org. Our goal is to raise public awareness of the fundamental cause of (and solutions to) social and environmental issues, so that all people are empowered to determine a sustainable population size for their families, regions and the planet. We explore the links among population growth, women’s rights, access to family planning, education, social justice and environmental challenges, including urban sprawl, water rights, climate change and consumption.
I’m fortunate that I get to attend some very interesting events for my job. I recently traveled to Rio de Janeiro for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development/Rio+20. I went on behalf of both the Institute for Population Studies and also the Sierra Club’s Global Population and Environment Program, with whom I volunteer. Rio+20 was exciting, exhausting, informative, and frustrating. There was a final outcome document that governments agreed upon, but most environmentalists and reproductive rights activists and many others were not happy with it. The best things happened at the conference side events, where new collaborations and connections were made amongst diverse sectors for future work and campaigns.
And after Rio, I went straight to Colorado for the Aspen Ideas Festival, a gathering of “top thinkers” on a range of pressing issues. This year they addressed population growth in a week of sessions called Our Planet: 7 Billion and Counting.
My articles on the conferences and other issues can be seen at http://populationgrowth.org/ I also have a personal blog focused on India, environment, and human rights called Taming the Tiger, located at http://suzanneyork.wordpress.com/.http://suzanneyork.wordpress.com/.
What environmental issues are most important to you and how as individuals can we personally support these issues and increase awareness?
Most of my writing reflects the issues that most concern me, namely population growth, women’s empowerment, reproductive rights, over-consumption, alternative economic indicators, and protecting the environment.
My background has been working on the effects of globalization on the environment and human rights/indigenous rights. I’ve been very excited to transition into writing about population issues and advocating for women’s empowerment, since I feel that these are key issues and solutions to many of the problems the world is facing today.
When we empower women, it reduces stress on the environment and resources. The latest statistic is that 222 million women in developing countries want to avoid pregnancy, but lack effective contraception. When these women are educated, given choice and access to voluntary reproductive health services, along with improved economic opportunities, their communities and the planet benefit. Study after study shows meeting basic needs helps women and everyone cope with the effects of climate change and protect and manage resources better. It is critical that people become better informed on how empowering women leads to healthy families and a sustainable environment.
What type of WEN events do you most enjoy?
I really enjoy being a WEN board member and collaborating with very interesting and talented women. We plan many great activities, and the ones I like best are hiking excursions, brunches, and speed networking.