Biologists often talk about the ways one small change in an ecosystem can lead to a series of other, unexpected changes. Sometimes the result is bad–a species goes extinct, for example. Sometimes the result is good: you may remember this cool video about what happened to rivers in Yellowstone National Park when wolves were reintroduced to the park.
Human societies are like ecosystems in many ways: when we change one thing, the results can be unpredictable. (In economics, we sometimes use the terms ‘virtuous cycles’ and ‘vicious cycles’ to describe how this works.) That’s why studying initiatives can be so fascinating: you never know where they might lead. I was reminded of this over the weekend when I read this article about a sports camp for girls in rural Bihar. It’s an interesting sports story, but what I noticed was how girls get to the sports camp–they ride bicycles that they were given to them so they could go to school. It made me wonder if this could have happened if girls didn’t have cycles. And might this be changing the way people in Bihar think about the role of girls and women in society?