There is a truth many are hiding via greenwashing and other moves, to avoid or reduce climate liability: The obligation to pay just and effective Fair Start family reparations.
Fact: Had we based family planning on what children need rather than economic growth models, we would not need to pay the climate reparations we now owe, for things like grave harm to mothers and infants, payments which will never go far enough. As early as 1974 family planning should have been determined by the presence of resources to assure ecosocial birth equity and a stable ecocentric climate, treated as the first human right/objective norm.
The portion of wealth made at cost to this baseline is subject to that use now as the most effective form of climate reparations today, and many are leading by example, paying those costs to families to avoid million dying as temperatures rise. Government cannot assign wealth until they fulfill fair start obligations, the obligation that justifies their authority. Why? Law is a unique obligation because it can be coerced. After the Enlightenment and the development of democracy, that is so because we assume law represents the will of the governed. Logically then, the first obligation is to have and raise children in a way that actually makes that true.
Some will say this is not their issue. How can one’s fundamental role in political systems not be their issue? What they really mean is that they accept fundamental status quo where they benefit at cost to others.
We caused harm by using family policy to quietly convert public progress into private benefits, and must pay now, compensate the harmed and be free of that obligation. Some of those who benefited the most from not giving what they should have in the past are covering those reparations, via effective programs like Seeds, using hard metrics like the Children’s Rights Convention, climate restoration via birth equity, and Tucker/Dasgupta’s optimality.
These entitlements ensure parenting delay, readiness, reallocation of entitlements for birth and rearing equity, and smaller or ecocentric families that raise influential citizens – not economic inputs with little say over the rules under the rules they must live. We are not bound by written constitutions, but whatever justly constitutes our power relations to make those relations consensual, which comes very close to the ideal of decolonization, ensuring at the same time the protection of the most vulnerable: Future children and nonhumans.
If freedom always requires some level of self-determination, it would be impossible to ensure any version of it without birth and development conditions for all children that meet minimum thresholds so they can self-determine rather than be determined (e.g., climatologically) by others, and one test for whether that is occurring equitably would be treating growth as inverse to self-determination, relative to the absence of human power/nature (which requires, at a minimum, climate restoration). This formula leads to a free and equal future – Tucker/Dasgupta’s optimality.
Who we should be, via children’s rights, logically always comes first – and sets an overriding baseline for all cost and benefit analysis, including climate reparations. One’s positionality, intergenerational and otherwise, is key in this analysis. Money often controls how one sees this work.
Take Action: Find and “pull” high profile levers to be effective family role models by paying what they owe, and bend the arc of who we are becoming towards justice. How? Start by asking public figures claiming to do good in the world to actually tell the truth. Ask them to account for how the family norms, policies and relative ranking of obligations they never accounted for has undone those values and created the climate crisis and vast inequity.
We can all intervene and disrupt the scam of hiding injustice behind families, and the green/growth-washing nonprofits, companies, foundations, etc. engage in every day causing deadly harm to at-risk victims in nations around the world. We can demand the costs that the wealthy extolled on future generations in the form of birth and development reparations, the intervention that does the most good for the most vulnerable, ensuring existential justice / relative self-determination.
Contrary to current family policies, Fair Start family norms, policies and interventions1) use international human rights law, not purely domestic standards, which is required for a climate crisis that does not observe national borders – but does so in a way that includes domestic remedies, 2) sets the highest standard for climate reparations rather than undercutting victims’ claims by pretending anthropocentric standards are the only standards, 3) mandates direct family-based reparations, which have the greatest impact and sidestep the governments that created the crisis , and 4) corrects the baseline error or fallacy of using systems of governance that don’t require first empowering their constituents through family reforms.