The climate crisis is not just about emissions. It’s about how children, animals, and adults will actually experience the crisis, and that depends long run on the mental and physical resources they have, their location, those people that surround them, etc. And that depends on what they have at birth.
Impact, on many levels. depends on how we have kids.
The climate crisis, caused largely by generations of extreme wealth and wealthy families in colonizing nations, is actually threatening to kill untold numbers of children in poor families – those least responsible for the crisis.
Is that fair?
Would it be wrong for a young woman with little wealth or income intending to become a mother to demand birth equity resources – resources that simply ensure a level playing field for her child and thus offset the harm – from a wealthy family that externalized the deadly environmental and social costs of its wealth upon the child she wished to have? What if that family exploited that birth inequity and growth to not only harm her future child, but ensure that child would be likely to work for little money for the wealthy family and their children? What if the young woman were black, and whose child would have 9/10th less wealth than white kids because they would be black, and the white family she asked could afford to share by choosing to have fewer children?
What if the wealthy family had made their money by lying, greenwashing and otherwise hiding the true costs of their wealth?
What if the young intending mother were unable to even challenge the injustice of birth poverty and ecological injustice through participatory democracy where her voice actually mattered, because those systems never really represented the constituents they claimed to? What if she intended to use the resources she secured to engage in better way of planning for – and thriving in – families, one that left the racist ecocide and other mistakes of former generations behind?
Consider this fact: People, not documents, constitute nations, and the creation of their power relations through birth and development – by definition and inevitably – determines whether they are relatively self-determining or determined by others. These relations are part of the implied “we” in every statement, the often unspoken presence of the dominant political/legal system – usually the nation – from which the statement is orienting. How would you ever really account for inclusive power relations to allow a say in what the law should be without starting at creation, and accounting for the move from minor to adult that makes persons full citizens capable of making the rules.
You would not, and the failure to halt the climate crisis is evidence of this. And there is a clear formula to assess reparations. The would-be mother would be truly constituting democracy, speaking the truth and logic of self-determination to power.
So . . . if that young mother were charged with trespassing in making the demand, could she challenge it – and expect a jury to side with her – because the state cannot limit access to property without first empowering (actually or physically constituting) its people to be involved in the making of such property rules, i.e. empowering them through just the sort of constitutive discourse in which she seeks to engage? How do we every get to governance by the people without elevating her prepolitical right above the process-based rule of trespass? Do we really choose to constitute our relations via top-down force in a system run by men, versus a system of bottom-up empowerment run by women, via the act of care?
Her act is fundamentally liberating, and the best explanation of political obligation, because free people will start by limiting and decentralizing the influence others have over them.
This is not theoretical. A complaint reflecting the right to make such demands is now before the United Nations, to benefit the most vulnerable communities impacted by the crisis.
Free persons will not follow laws in systems that fundamentally disempower – that create lots of persons as cheap labor and consumers for shopping malls where they do not make the rules – rather investing much in developing them as citizens for town halls where they do.
For all of the reasons given above, many reasonable people would consider the young mother taking peaceful action to achieve birth equity for her future child, and setting an example that others might embrace to protect all future children the height of working towards freedom and justice.
There would be serious winds at her back, as a true total liberation protester:
- Countless children’s lives such a sea change in entitlements would save from early death.
- The billions who would get a fair chance in life rather than be born, work for the wealthy, and die – all in poverty.
- The countless animals who would not suffer and die in the deadliest phases of the Anthropocene because of such a move. In fact, her demand could be aligned with other forms of micro animal liberation that question – regardless of what unrepresentative governments do – unlimited rights to own and mistreat nonhumans.
- And the billions whose voices would actually matter in functional democracies because of her bravery.
- And the wealthy that are already giving along these lines of paying back future generations, out of obligation, thus marginalizing the greedy who do not give.
She would be ensuring self-determination for many, true freedom, instead of them being determined by others. What is the right way to deal with someone who insists on participating in a system that risks millions of lives in order for that person to make more money?
She can leave the money with the wealthy family, knowing it was made at cost to others, or move it and save lives. She can empower children equally, and help solve another problem: Acts of mass violence do not stem from mental illness as much as from a sense of disempowerment, and the need to matter in one final act within what shooters perceive as an unjust world. We were sold sustainable town halls where we matter and can control the world around us to a degree, but got unsustainable, massive shopping malls where most do not matter and have no say. And those that benefitted from this system, at cost to others, want to block media from reporting things like mass shootings to hide the costs of their systems.
The young woman’s move would start to reverse that. While coercion would be counterproductive, she would have better justification for it than the state. If we are really self-determining and politically equal, that means we are invested in and empowered enough to offset each other’s capacity for self-determination equally as nations grow, so that each person can influence the rules under which they have to live, and be free enough to look into each others eyes without fear or deference.
Those on whom she would make the demands – who would choose preventable deaths – seem tiny and worthy of targeting relative to all of that. Her move to demand is a move towards knowing her and many other children, under a tests laid out by one of the leading political philosophers in the world, will live free.
TAKE ACTION TO MAKE SUCH ACTIONS MORE FEASIBLE: URGE THE UNITED NATIONS TO RECOGNIZE THE RIGHT TO A FAIR START IN LIFE.
Consider engaging in peaceful and lawful retest’s that achieve what the hypothetical young woman above seeks to achieve.
You can also give to efforts on the ground to make this change a reality.
Do you support an academic institution? Most of the academics in debates about family reforms contradict in their writings the basic values they exhibited throughout their lives, e.g. seeking minimum thresholds of personal welfare, expecting equal access to opportunities, participating in and adherence to political/legal systems that purported to represent the governed, use and enjoyment of an environment relatively conducive to human and nonhuman health, etc.
Given their privileged intergenerational positionality, and the fact that they sent their lives generally relying on and participated in legal/political systems of coercive obligation that benefitted them at cost to others, they should at least begin from a default or provisional position of extending those values to future generations by saying – as a fundamental premise of justice over top-down power – that basic human rights systems should prioritize the child welfare/equity in instruments like the Children’s Rights Convention over parental subjective choice in the ethics, law and policy of family planning, population, and procreation so that future generations can also debate these things from the comfort and security these academics do. Urge any academic institution you support to back Fair Start family reforms.