Media icons, from Ezra Klein on the left to Tucker Carlson on the right love to push women to have kids as a means of growing the economy, despite the way that literally undoes most of the progress in fighting the climate crisis.
This trend is fundamentally enabled by the current fundamental norm for family planning, one that operates around the globe, and is devoid of obligations to future children or our nonhuman ecologies. It’s the same norm that set up Roe v. Wade for failure.
It’s a norm that ensure children of color are:
- born with a fraction of the wealth of white kids which is a vestige of colonialism and slavery
- those same children of color will suffer greater ecological harm as we commit ecocide upon the planet,
- and all of that despite clear findings in multiple peer-reviews that every child’s right to an ecosocial fair start in life overrides the property rights that create this system of injustice, and editorials in Newsweek that show how targeting key concentrations of wealth and power to demand what is owed could start to change the norm.
One clear method for changing this would be to take the extreme wealth at the top of the economic pyramid, the wealth that was made by externalizing costs on women and children – especially women and children of color – in the form of unsustainable growth and an absence of guaranteed birth and development conditions for children, and using it to entitle and incentivize family reforms. This is a compelling approach because it is effective, but also because it is mandated by human rights, and can be done with laser-like specificity, geared for each context in which the payments are applied.
But instead of this messaging to get us to a better future, we see constant pressure on women to have kids under the current norms and policies, exerted as a means to grow economies that generally benefit rich white men at cost to nature, women and children. The messaging is everywhere (just Google “baby bust” or “fertility rates”) – and it reflects white supremacy and ecocide that will disproportionally harm women and children of color.
First, none of the pushing women talks about ensuring birth equity for black children when people do have kids. Big surprise – black kids tend to be poor. Birth inequity is the fundament of racism in many ways, because it ensures white people have much more money and power – money and power they never earned, but were simply born with. And the inequity stems actually from the days of slavery.
Instead of pushing women to have kids to create consumption and cheap labor, why not promote equitable and sustainable families?
Second, the messaging almost never talks about conditioning our family advocacy on eliminating the impacts of race on maternal and child health and welfare. But it easily could.
Third, all of the push comes out of fears that women being liberated from motherhood will harm our economy – god forbid rich people get lower returns on their investments than the unsustainable growth of the past has allowed. But immigration is actually a sufficient replacement to alleviate any risk this poses. However, there is a catch – immigrants generally don’t look like Tucker and Ezra’s white kids, so, that’s a problem for them.
Fourth, it will be persons of color with less money, and colonized societies, who suffer the most in the climate crisis and the ecocide it derives from. And pushing women to have kids will make the crisis worse – specifically worse for these more vulnerable people. How is that not racist?
One way to catalyze change is to sue companies and nonprofits for fraud and false advertising based on the way their claims of progress hid family impacts. Any claim of “sustainability” or comparable messaging that did not account for overshoot was in fact misleading, and by spreading misinformation, exacerbated the climate crisis in a way that is killing babies.
And of course if the response to the argument that claims were misleading because they did not account for growth is that the claims countenanced the fact that fertility rates were falling, then: 1) Those relying on that fall should immediately endorse small family policies that lock in the beneficial change as reflective of human rights, 2) acknowledge that rates have not fallen quickly enough to evade the crises, that the policy changes should have been made decades ago, and that reparations are owed relative to this baseline, and 3) acknowledge that those rates are not falling in many areas of the world, which bring us back to square one.
Such litigation is coming.