When Paul Hawken and others put together the Drawdown assessment of climate solutions, many noticed that some of the solutions centered on empowering women seemed to exceed others, and together produce the greatest long-run impacts.
Per one author:
Let’s talk impact: Increased adoption of reproductive healthcare and family planning is an essential component to achieve the United Nations’ 2015 medium global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050. If investment in family planning, particularly in low-income countries, does not materialize, the world’s population could come closer to the high projection, adding another 1 billion people to the planet. Because educating girls has an important impact on the use of family planning, Drawdown.org allocates 50 percent of the total potential emissions reductions to each solution—51.48 gigatons apiece.
And in practice many institutions around the world are making the reforms reality, often employing the same methods – social cognitive theory and role modeling – that for decades have ensured smaller families and moved the world closer to its sustainable development goals.
But could we have done better? Can we now? To date, this work had been done under a United Nations backed family planning model that isolates families from one another, treating family planning as a matter of parental autonomy. The isolation model is problematic.
First, it is based on a lie - that the act of having kids is more personal than interpersonal, or something that impacts others. That is the sleight of hand. That lie was told to protect generations of wealth and the obligations the truth would have placed on them to pay their share to ensure equal opportunities in life for all kids. They preferred to give their rich kids a massive head start. That's not fair. But governments and the United Nations backed them over women and children.
Second, the lie finds no footing in binding international law, and is instead of the product of “soft law” agreements between unsustainable growth obsessed nations. Third, it incorporated no particular ecological baseline for family planning, something that has helped precipitate the climate crisis by permitting population growth arcs – especially in wealthy nations – that far exceeded atmospheric carrying capacities. Fourth, and this is crucial, it assumed a child’s economic birth position – rich versus poor – was simply a matter of fortune, despite clear evidence that such early positioning dictates a child’s prospects in terms of economic class, later in life.
Recommended for You
In short the modeling to date has promoted women’s autonomy. What if that were combined with promoting child equity? What if redistribution to aid in ensuring birth and developmental equity were treated as human right? If prior models, and social movements around them like Birth Strike, sought to elevate women’s control, could this move elevate their role in governance, making it primary?
Some women are already engaged in such a discourse, and there are moves afoot to reform humane education laws to make teaching young women about this primary right – and correlative obligations to choose sustainably sized families that build demonstrable empathy for all in species in children - the core of such systems.
Could young intending parents role model interpersonal, not isolating, planning based on transfers and equity? Could they role model being a heroine who targets the wealthy men who stole money from women and children, and helped create the climate crisis, to take the money back in order to give kids a Fair Start in life?
The impact of that shift, combining equity and social cognitive theory, could catalyze impacts, ensuring smaller families investing more in each child.
Our current political system generally asserts control via financial incentives, or carrots, backed by the stick of state violence and the property right entitlements that violence defends. To move to a more self-determining form of governance could require reassessing those entitlements to create truly participatory democracies that reflect the wills of their constituents.
Some applications would take this shift further, demanding resources from large concentrations of wealth like ExxonMobil to specifically offset the ecological and social costs they foisted on others, resources that could be used as incentives/entitlements to ensure birth and developmental equity.
The social and ecological future our planet is bleak. This shift could protect future generations in ways prior work failed to do.