Hardly a day passes in which news headlines fail to inform us of the latest climate crisis. As the global population increases, formerly “once-in-a-lifetime” environmental disasters occur with ever greater frequency. While all are impacted by rising levels of greenhouse gases, we are not impacted equally. Developing nations and disadvantaged communities bear a disproportionate burden of the hardships caused by releasing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.
Yet, as awareness grows of the current environmental dangers and those that lay ahead, governmental and economic policies to counter climate change remain fixated largely on efforts to increase the use of renewable energies, place limits on harmful emissions, improve energy efficiency, and boost conservation and recycling efforts. What is typically left unspoken is a policy program that offers the most effective and equitable way to improve the environment for current and future generations, namely family planning.
Fair Start Movement, an NGO focused on addressing climate and social issues triggered by intergenerational inequality, places family planning at the core of its mission. Policies that support and empower smaller families to share resources and work together create fairer, more sustainable societies. Such societies prioritize children and not just adults, preserve animal and plant species and not just humans, and protect future generations and not just the current one. Carter Dillard, Policy Director of Fair Start Movement (FSM), explains below:
Carter, begin by explaining the values behind FSM?
FSM maintains five essential values: sustainability; well-being; fairness; democracy; and nature. These values derive from the fundamental belief that each individual, regardless of the circumstances in which they are born, deserves a fair start in life. Our current system regrettably does not prioritize these values. Instead, what we all have inherited is an outdated market-based system that unjustly rewards those who have accumulated wealth. This system values us largely as producers or consumers and not as free beings who consent to enter into a social contract to attain political freedom and a minimal level of welfare within society.
So what does FSM seek to achieve in place of the current system?
FSM seeks to reform unjust policies that enable extreme concentrations of wealth, power, and privilege from passing generation to generation. Such policies deny equality of opportunity to children born into families and societies that lack the resources needed to ensure a fair start. What FSM proposes is not radical. Rather, we seek to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty that condemns large parts of our national and global community to a life that is too often short and harsh and deprives individuals of the means and liberty to determine their own futures. Proper family planning is the first step toward reforming and building this better system.
How does family planning play a critical role in improving our society?
Effective family planning leads to a shift in public policies toward empowering more sustainable families of one or two children. Resources are then redirected from wealthier and larger families to smaller and less-privileged ones. By providing all parents with the resources needed to guarantee a minimum level of well-being for their children, we are leveling the playing field enough to create a fairer and more democratic community in which all members benefit.
Which policies does FSM envision reforming to create this fairer, more democratic community?
There are many practical steps that we can take today as a society to achieve a more equitable outcome tomorrow. For example, here in the United States, we can reduce and then eliminate child tax credits and other benefits for families with more than one child earning over a certain annual income. These savings then can be provided to smaller families in need directly or through the creation of savings programs for disadvantaged kids, sometimes called “baby bonds”.
We can invest more resources in early childhood development and in education, specifically for young women who then typically choose to delay parenthood. Both of these policies have been shown to result in families having fewer and healthier children, which provides a substantial return on investment by reducing costs later associated with adult poverty, healthcare, and penalization in our criminal justice system.
All of these reforms can help us to create an empowered and more sustainable community of individuals and families speaking up and working together to share resources more equitably than we do at present. We have the means. We just have to exercise the will to change.
Having mentioned sustainability, how do these reforms tie into the environment and nature?
FSM advocates not just an improved baseline for human well-being but also for non-human species. We all share the same ecosystem, as evidenced tragically by the recent coronavirus pandemic that many believe originated in nature and spread from animal to human. Likewise, we are being forced increasingly to confront the growing impact of human-caused climate change on nature and all species, not just our own. We are clearly interconnected, and the best hope for survival requires policies that create a baseline environment for all species, promote biodiversity, and embrace a more inclusive concept of nature.
Conservation and recycling and shifting to renewable energies to limit greenhouse gas emissions are all important policies. But these policies share the same flaw in that they focus on downstream causes of the climate crisis and not its origins. The more people on earth, the more we produce and consume, and the more we accelerate harmful changes in our environment. Effective family planning is the antidote to the adverse impacts on nature that come with non-sustainable growth.
As the climate crisis deepens, we risk a future where the current focus on population growth, and the associated system of wealth accumulation and intergenerational inequality, does more harm to future generations than all of our present efforts to address environmental problems can do to help them. Family planning offers the best means for combating climate change.
Scott E. Mortman focuses his practice on litigation and international dispute resolution, technology, energy and the environment, corporate law and governmental affairs. He counsels and represents both established and emerging companies. Prior to joining the firm, he was a partner in the New York office of a large U.S. law firm. Most recently, he served as the Director of Global Business Development for Better Place, Inc., the Israel-based electric vehicle services company. He also previously served as an advisor to the Israeli government on matters relating to international trade and foreign investment. He is a frequent speaker on issues relating to renewable energy, clean tech, and transportation and has contributed to panels on Israeli security and U.S.-Israel relations. His previous experience includes representing clients based in the U.S. and abroad in a range of matters.
Carter Dillard, Policy Director of FSM and author of Justice as a Fair Start in Life, began his career as an Honors Program appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice. He later served as a legal adviser to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in the national security law division. He wrote his thesis reformulating the right to have children under Jeremy Waldron, his extensive academic work on family planning has been published by Yale, Duke, and Northwestern Universities, as well as in peer-reviewed pieces, and he has served on the Steering Committee of the Population Ethics and Policy Research Project and was a Visiting Scholar at the Uehiro Center, both at the University of Oxford. He has taught at several law schools in the U.S., served as a peer reviewer for the journal Bioethics, and most recently managed an animal protection strategic impact litigation program, with annual resources in excess of five million dollars.