Today, given a recent study showing that the loss of ice in Antarctica has tripled in a decade as a result of the climate change crisis, Having Kids called upon the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to abandon its outdated family planning modeling in favor of the sustainable Fair Start model. Family planning is the most effective way to address climate change and other environmental threats.
This is our message to the UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem:
We respectfully request that you consider reforming the family planning model at the heart of the United Nations Population Fund’s work. The UNFPA currently uses an outdated family planning model that was developed before the manifestation of climate change, key developments in the science of early childhood development, and the massive and growing gap between rich and poor that exists today. That outdated model should be reformed to account for these things, and many other problems it exacerbates.
The current model adopted by the UNFPA recognizes the fundamental human right of parents to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children. It treats parents as if they were isolated from one another and their community in the act of planning, and does not include the rights of future persons, animals and their environment, the role of family planning in further democracy, etc. That model has no basis in binding sources of international law, and is unethical.
How does that model account for parents that choose to have massive families, degrade the environment we all share, and put us all at risk? How does it account for parents’ obligation to not flout the Children’s Rights Convention, or even basic standards of fitness, by bringing children into existence below legally mandated thresholds? How does it account for the obligation parents and their community share to give every child a fair start in life, with opportunities equal to their peers? The UNFPA’s current model is isolationist, and by focusing on parents, violates the fundamental human rights of future children and communities.
- A recent study shows that the loss of ice in Antarctica has tripled in a decade. Multiple studies have shown that choosing smaller families easily has the most impact on environmental crises like climate change. From Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown, to previous studies on climate change, population size has been shown to be the primary driver of the climate crisis That’s also the case for the downstream impacts of climate change like ocean acidification, and for other forms of ecocide, like the loss of biodiversity / mass extinction of other species. Thus, sustainable family planning is the most significant act that we can take to reduce our impact.
- Moreover, those studies did not assess the vital and obvious knock-on benefits of smaller families like better cognitive outcomes for children, opportunities for empathy-building through early childhood development, increased social cooperation and compliance with environmental norms, and avoiding the risky situation of more and more people competing for increasingly scarce resources.
- By 2100 world population could vary by billions of people, depending on whether the average woman in the world today has one child more or one child fewer in her lifetime.
- Our current family planning systems provide no minimum standard of wellbeing for future children, allowing children to be born into failing state systems because their parents cannot care for them. That exacerbates inequity, and ensures rich kids stay rich and poor kids stay poor.
- The failure of the reproductive rights movement to achieve its goals derives from adherence to the outdated model.
We offer the child-first Fair Start family planning model as a sustainable alternative to the UNFPA’s isolationist model. The Fair Start model is cooperative rather than isolationist, is based u[on binding sources of international law, and provides a clear human rights-based solution to the problems discussed above and a path forward. It is also reflected in the worldwide trend towards smaller families that can invest more in each child and ensure a safer future.
Take action, and ask Dr. Kanem to consider our request by tweeting her at @Atayeshe.