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Urge Dr. Claudine Gay to go beyond micro-equity towards macro-equity, the basic norm that is necessary to legitimate the Court.

Recently Harvard’s brilliant new President, Dr. Claudine Gay, released a statement on the litigation around Harvard’s admissions policies, in which she urged promoting equity. Those statements could be based on an error/fallacy/impossibility that actually blocks equity, an error her predecessor committed when making misleading claims about Harvard’s impacts – misleading because they did not factory in the role of underlying family equity policies.

Harvard’s own research suggests we must start there, and admissions policy aside, that fundamental inequity has quietly been getting worse.

Fair Start politely submits a few questions for Dr. Gay to consider: How are you accounting for children being born into the world (the creation of actual power relations), and whether the political systems we all back with our taxes, and otherwise, are investing in those children to give them a fair start, or exploiting them for growth? Did you assume the legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s decision without conditioning that legitimacy on the creation – via the obtaining of children’s rights – of fundamental childhood relations in a way that actually empowers people, consistent with what is implied our being free and equal persons by the preamble of the Constitution? Admissions equity aside, would you consider supporting family planning entitlements that ensure parental delay and readiness, climate-safe migration, leveling the playing field for all kids, and smaller or more ecocentric families such that each person plays an equal and influential role in creating the rules under which they must live?

Without the fairness in creation we may be quietly undoing the values we want to further. And by making statements about furthering articular values at a micro level without addressing them at a macro level, we are reinforcing a system that is fundamentally unjust, one that hides power to reserve it. The connection, in the case of the animal rights movement, was recently exemplified by a dispute at a well known organization. It was previously exemplified by media around our ask of the British royal family, and its obligations to others.

What’s the underlying problem? Multiple peer-reviewed research articles have been published showing a baseline error in climate policy that meant three-quarters of the mitigation efforts were being undone with pro-growth and inequitable family policies. Those policies ensured generational wealth disparities, exacerbating inequity, and also set the stage for today’s coercive pronatalism. The same policies actually violate human rights obligations, reversing reproductive justice and autonomy for future generations, bringing children into conditions that violate the Children’s Convention, and risking millions of lives.

The error simply involves the failure to derive political obligation all the way back towards intergenerational justice, rather than stopping the analysis – as is common – at static baselines. The basic condition of any rule is that it should be fair, but the first rule does not regard how we should act, but rather whom we should be. Returning to the preeamble question above, if the condition were met we would be able to break each fundamental polity into a functional constitutional convention at any time. That is not the case in the United States today.

If governance derives from the people then constitutionalism, or the limitation and decentralization of power, starts with the creation of relations, not written documents. That process is antecedent to government issued entitlements – like rights to extreme wealth or the authority of institutions like the Court – that ensure massive ecosocial inequity. Because of this error we do not really empower people, as we ignore the fundamental creation of their power relations, and as such our language and actions create a fantasy world of freedom that never sufficiently limits and decentralizes power. If freedom always requires some level of self-determination, it would be impossible to ensure without birth and development conditions for all children that meet minimum thresholds so they can self-determine rather than be determined by others, and one test for whether that is occurring equitably would be treating growth as inverse to self-determination, relative to nature (which requires, at a minimum, climate restoration).

Free persons will condition their obligation to follow the law on their being empowered – relative to the ideal – to determine it, and how it limits and decentralizes the power others have over us.

The climate crisis exemplifies the need for this perfectly, and calls for fundamental macro change with every micro change we seek so that we do not undo our values and accept any obligation to follow the laws when the systems that make those laws cannot possibly be inclusive and participatory, and are not reflective of the will of those they control.

The error – at base – stems from world leader failure in the Twentieth Century to connect family planning systems to child rights and welfare systems, a move designed to shield concentrations of wealth and power from redistributive obligations, one that ensured sufficient (and profitable) population growth to fundamentally create the climate crisis, and vast inequity. That underlying fact, and the failure to address it, means most claims of activities being sustainable, equitable, inclusive, green, democratic, regenerative, ecocentric, humane, etc. were false. We were knowingly undoing them, at deadly cost to others.

Our lives and freedom are determined by obligation, and the dominant one is law. The fundamental creation of power/obligation relations – our birth and development – should have been determined over the last several decades by incentivizing resources that would have ensured birth equity for all children, and equal influence over the laws under which we must live. That never happened, but climate reparations are a chance to change.

Be effective.

Solution: Use Fair Start certification, and truth-telling to reverse course. We can support climate reparations as equity-based family planning entitlements, and effective role modeling, to ensure not only reduced pollutants, but migration and resource-backed resilience in the children that will be born to ensure the highest form of climate justice, one called for by a slew of Nobel laureates,  and the only one compliant with human rights norms. Those reparations are not theoretical, but already being paid out.  

Birth justice and autonomy occur in a larger context of societal autonomy based on birth equity for all, and extreme measures are warranted as a provisional matter to evade irreversible harms to that autonomy, even in the absence of agreement about Fair Start.

The Fair Start certification program standards track capital itself, and forthcoming state attorney-general complaints, Lanham and other tort litigation – tied to climate loss and damage cases – will target relevant green/growth-washing claim, in many contexts. Because green/growth-washing comes from business, charities, media, politicians, academics, etc., all of whom are responding to capital. Much of that capital hides behind philanthropy, but the reality is that relative to the Children’s Convention and in light of climatological impacts on infants, the wealth doled out does less good than the harm created by the system of inequity and growth that created it.

These complaints will target harmful, preconstitutional, discourse: Statements about furthering particular values at a micro level without addressing them at a macro level, which has the effect of reinforcing a system that is fundamentally unjust and undoing the of the values we proclaim. Effective Altruism exemplifies this, assuming ownership in its very name of wealth taken from women and children.

These relevant claims and omissions  – which have the unique effect of skewing the baseline for climate reparations by trillions of dollars – will have benefitted those making the statements at massive to cost to others, and in a way that now threatens millions of lives – those least responsible for the climate crisis.

To be clear: Rejecting family reforms like fair start means we are knowingly inflicting ecological and other harms on others, via the system that enriches us all at cost to those others.

TAKE ACTION: Contact Dr. Gay at cgay@gov.harvard.edu, and urge her 1) consider these questions as well as Humane Family reforms, and to 2) back changes in international law that would make Fair Start the first peremptory norm, such that it would authorize using extreme concentrations of wealth, the costs of which were externalized, to ensure children’s rights, the actual foundation of justice.

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