What is the most good we can do? This is a question effective altruists (EA) grapple with.
This is a question that has been answered by the Children’s Rights Convention, which acts as a binding assessment of the ecosocial conditions (including restored climates) in which children should be born and develop in order to comprise just communities. In other words, EA is limited by the human rights regime and deontological population (or really, power) ethics, because we need to create people for town halls, rather than the utility-producing shopping malls that are first regulated by the former.
This human rights-based approach enables consent to power.
Admittedly the Convention has not been applied as a standard for family planning, but it could be, using family planning incentives/entitlements geared as climate reparations for future generations, with distributions/fees scaled inverse to wealth as a means of promoting climate restoration as well as parental readiness, birth equity, and smaller families. How can we possibly be effective, or efficient, without developing each child to full potential, in the freeness of nature that Henry David Thoreau described as the fundament of economy. The climate and inequity crises we face today fundamentally flow from denying the ecosocial conditions promised by the Convention (denied to them per one Nobel Laureate to ensure the growth the enriched a few), because in self-governing communities where authority flows bottom up, our fundamental power relations and development becomes the exclusive reason for such outcomes.
The fossil fuel industries currently being targeted at COP27 seem like ideal targets to urge to first fund this transition from parent-centric to child-centric planning. And using the Convention, perhaps reinterpreted as requiring that we take democracy seriously by applying this inversion principle, would avoid what might be called the constitutive fallacy, or treating anything other than a fair creation norm that empowers people (from whom the legitimacy of things like state constitutions derive) equitably – per the inversion – as the ultimate obligation. How can we separate our values from ourselves, and our creation?
How can EA accept property rights, for its charitable distributions for example, without this obligation? Property rights cannot derogate from our being free and equal people capable of determining who should have such rights. Assigning them without the changes made here is preconstitutional, and antidemocratic.
Without ensuring minimum levels of welfare for future children, and the autonomy of the nonhuman world that is part of that welfare, EA is simply using its platform to exploit the most vulnerable entities.
If we reject the fundamental fairness described here, we end up with a system that does not allow people to meaningfully participate in creating the rules under which they must live, a system that is thus backed by violence rather than consent. And we would force people to live, disempowered as such, amid massive and growing inequity and in an increasingly hostile environment.
We can use the great concentrations of wealth that growth created (wealth now defended by systems of violence) to fund incentives/entitlements to bend the arc of our existence away from that future, and towards a biodiverse future where each child gets what they need, and participatory democracy – or freedom – is the reality. It would be wrong not to shift that wealth, by all means effective, given that it’s true costs were externalized on the women and children the incentives/entitlements would go to.
If we do not, and the situation degrades as described above, many people in that situation will turn to self-defensive violence, free people who through effective leaderless resistance models will limit and decentralize the violence-backed power (like the property rights EA now relies upon) others have over them, in part by taking the resources necessary to invest in young women’s constituting true democracy through better family policies.
TAKE ACTION: THERE ARE DOZENS OF WAYS TO PROMOTE TRUE FAIRNESS AND JUSTICE. CHOOSE ONE NOW.