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Read news about family planning and population – especially stories coming out around today’s World Population Day – and you might notice something: We all seem to recognize that our future depends on getting family planning right, but there is no agreement on what that means.

Conservative media continue to push women to have more children, arguing that women in the U.S. should have more babies and sooner, despite the fact that the average person in the U.S. is much more environmentally destructive than the average person in other countries. That’s a shocking position for family-loving conservatives to take, given that those children will suffer the most in the degraded environment of the future. These voices are more subtle than some of the blatant racism that underlies the “bigger white families” approach.

Mainstream and more liberal media continue to parrot the tired message that population problems are all about the developing world and Africa in particular. They claim we must simply educate young girls and provide more access to contraception and reproductive health services to make it all better. That’s also shocking, given the results of this approach, its failure to establish targets based on sustainability, and the way this approach – like the conservatives’ – has pushed the problem of growth onto future generations. This also ignores the needs of nonhumans and thereby ensures their extinction, putting the nonsensical right of people like the Duggar family to have umpteen kids above the right of entire species to survive.

While commentators debate from opposite sides of the room, those living with the reality of the population explosion are now moving towards direct forms of population control, something no really wants but may see as necessary given the failure of family planning systems.

This is chaos.

And chaos, when it comes to the one behavior that most determines our future, is terrifying. What’s an alternative? It may lie in an opinion piece that came out today. The piece was focused on what David Brooks called pediacracy, how birth positioning determines the economic class in which we will spend our lives. Brooks argues that pediacracy is ruining America.

What does this have to do with population? The entire system of human rights and democracy begins with a narrative from the 17th century and continues through the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights some 400 years later, about free and equal people coming together to make their own rules to live by. What if we took that story literally, so that all would-be parents had to work together to ensure all children of that particular generation and community got a fair start in life, with opportunities equalized between rich and poor? What do you think would happen to fertility rates?

It’s time to change our approach to family planning.

Having Kids promotes the Fair Start model. Both liberals and conservatives should embrace this approach. It is one way to address the immediate and universal problem of unsustainable growth.

At Having Kids:

We promote and protect every child’s right to a fair start in life by replacing unsustainable, parent-centered family planning models with the human rights-based and child-centered Fair Start family planning model. The model suggests a shift in family planning from a subjective focus on just the parents, to an objective focus that considers the interests of the potential child, the parents, and the community.

It’s all about this: Smaller families working together to give every child a fair start in life.

Today many families are adopting the Fair Start family planning model. First, they try to give their child a fair start in life by having a smaller family where they can invest more in their child. Often they also foster or adopt one of the many children eagerly waiting for parents rather than creating additional need. Second, they publicly role model their choices. Finally, these families join public advocacy campaigns to shift resources from extractive centers of power like governments, corporations, and wealthy families in order to democratically empower children and future citizens by incentivizing better family planning by all parents. Why? All parents know that the quality of their own child’s life will depend on how other parents decide to have and raise their kids.

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