In the 20th Century world population growth exploded. That growth is continuing, and fundamentally driving massive inequity of wealth and power between the rich and poor as the conditions of our birth hang upon us throughout our lives.
We are getting more crowded and more divided in an environment that is less hospitable to our species. And yet, family planning reforms can have twenty times the long-term climate impact over other measures, and ten or more times impact on inequity. Why do we rarely discuss them? Below we will examine who benefits from that silence, and how to take them down.
As the growth explosion began to unfold world leaders scrambled for solutions to the catastrophic social and ecological problems the growth was causing. At the time, in the wake of World War II, human rights had emerged as a fundamental framework for universal policy making and world leaders used it to intervene. While the interventions did set a pathway to reverse the growth, world leaders (mostly men operating under a paradigm of religiosity and ongoing colonization) intentionally misinterpreted the fundamental right to have children in an isolationist way, ignoring the collective obligations around family planning policies and in a way that ensured a certain level of growth. All of this was based on a patriarchal and parent-focused right to have children that ignored the interests of future generations, communities, and the nonhuman world. They intentionally treated family planning as if people lived in caves, isolated from one another.
That move accomplished several things.
- First, it ensured continued male control of the family by establishing familial autonomy from justice systems, despite massive power differentials between men and women.
- Second, it enabled continued population growth, which by creating an ongoing supply of consumers, cheap future labor, and lots of taxpayers, increased economic growth and ensured greater wealth and power for those at the top of the population pyramid. It’s crucial to keep in mind that this was not just about growth in numbers of people, but the model enabled massive inequity, evaded minimum provisions for children, and treated nature as a human resource. The system of exploitation that created the population and wealth pyramid one Nobel Laureate recently noted actually involved four aspects of injustice that, in effect, replaced democracy with marketplaces. And all aspects were hidden behind the veil of familial privacy and autonomy. The things that fundamentally degraded the opportunity for self-rule and equity – family planning and early childhood development – were treated as nobody’s business. This process intentionally replaced citizens who might have voices in their governance with consumers whose choices were limited to markets.
- Third, the growth enabled many nonprofits and civil society organizations to financially benefit, while also appearing to champion human rights, despite the growth reversing most of their programmatic progress. These groups often took money and support from those at the top of the population growth pyramid. Instead of dealing with growth they focused on less impactful, but more sensational, downstream programming. For example, massive environmental organizations focused on protecting particular areas of land or species, knowing full well that population growth would eventually create irresistible demand that would degrade those species and lands.
- Fourth, by isolating families, it prevented the need to redistribute wealth in order to fulfill any collective obligations we might have to future children. The model was and is deeply unethical, ensuring no minimum levels of welfare for future children, nothing even close to a Fair Start in life for kids, no protection for our ecologies and nature, and no guarantee that people would have equal and influential voices in their democracies.
That growth, and our division into cycles of rich and poor families, ensured the ecological and social crises we face today.
Facts: Those that designed the the isolationist family planning model took risks with relatively unknown factors, like climate emissions, and enabled growth that multiplied – exponentially – their impact. The risks and the harms that resulted and will result would have been avoided through alternative modeling that actually complied with human rights, like Fair Start zero baseline modeling. The modeling moves the world from organizing societies based on coercion, or even self-interest and incentives, towards self-actualization, and maximizing freedom by aligning values in a way that can make us truly self-determining. Look back at theories of social organization, like those based on self-interest, and you will find the proponents hiding the role our creation plays in the process.
The people responsible for the continued population explosion in the 20th Century fundamentally created conditions that lead to, and will lead to, massive suffering and death, especially when we consider ongoing intergenerational impacts like the climate crisis. Their followers are continuing to promote growth as a means of enriching themselves, despite impacts on children, animals, and the environment. Now the world stands at a crossroads between continued growth, or a move towards an optimal world population.
The solution at this crossroads must be to embrace the family planning and reproductive justice systems that are actually compliant with human rights requirements. That means shifting from our current systems focused on what parents want subjectively, to a system focused on what all children need objectively: An eco-social Fair Start in life. Doing that puts justice over power at the fundament of life. That start is the first human right, and the first necessary condition of freedom, or of not being subjected to others power (including subtle things like bad parenting and climate crises) against one’s will.
At this crossroads there is a division between free people and pre-constitutionally minded people, or precons (whom we can identify through particular modes of discourse), who refuse to prioritize as the first human right every child’s right to an eco-social Fair Start in life. That start, by limiting and decentralizing human power, has the greatest impact on the most numerous and most vulnerable entities – future generations and nonhumans, and is the most effective solution to the crises we face today with ten to twenty times the impact of downstream measures.
Understand who precons are – they are blocking a state of affairs where the majority of moral entities can relatively self-determine. They are the fundamental threat to freedom.
Help us at Having Kids identify and hold accountable those who benefitted the most to pay for what has happened, and those alive today making the situation worse. We have a right to redistribute power by taking their resources to fund Fair Start reforms and there is no greater act of justice that would liberate me, or more vulnerable, entities.
Take a first step action: Urge the United Nations to change course, and adopt Fair Start family planning as the universal standard for reproductive justice. Joe Biden and Congress should do the same and promote Fair Star Bonds as the most effective solution to the interconnected ecosocial crises we face.
Take a next step action: The children of those most responsible for the climate crisis owe us all – in the form of Fair Start public funding – the wealth their parents took from future generations. Not only did they exploit birth inequity, but they used unsustainable population growth to create their own demand without accounting for the ecosocial costs. Find and legally and politely urge these people to pay what they owe, then share your stories with us so we can publicize them.
Take a next step action: Engage any group or individual claiming to promote social justice to answer three questions.