Carter Dillard

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Carter Dillard
Activist. Policy Adviser. Writer

Carter Dillard is the policy adviser for the Fair Start Movement.

Latest by this author

Carter Dillard began his career as an Honors Program appointee to the U.S. Department of Justice, eventually practicing national security law with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, where he developed a human-rights approach to family planning published by Yale Law School that would have significantly mitigated the climate crisis. He wrote his Master of Laws thesis on that approach at New York University under Jeremy Waldron.

Dillard has also served as a peer-reviewer for the journal Bioethics as part of the Steering Committee of the Population Ethics and Policy Research Project and as a Visiting Scholar at the Uehiro Center, both at the University of Oxford in Oxford, England.

Dillard co-founded the Fair Start Movement (FSM), where he currently serves as the policy advisor. FSM has developed a “just creation norm” as a human rights-based, child-centric, and “zero baseline” family planning model with an exponentially more significant impact on sustainable development and animal protection than downstream alternatives.

He currently serves as an advisor and counsel for the Stable Planet Alliance.

Dillard also served as the director of litigation at the Animal Legal Defense Fund. During that time, he helped quadruple the number of cases the organization had filed and helped oversee its first undercover investigations.

In 2023, Dillard became a whistleblower in a Newsweek op-ed showing wrongdoing around measuring climate reparations in U.S. climate litigation.

Dillard is the author of Justice as a Fair Start in Life (Eliva Press, 2021), which explores what is called the “constitutive fallacy”—basing one’s obligation to follow the law on top-down instruments like written constitutions rather than bottom-up family reforms that measurably empower people, and enable them to physically constitute—under the Children’s Convention—legitimate societies.

His book reveals what’s called the “FamScam”—that civil society organizations have been knowingly undoing claimed progress with outdated family policies that disempowered most people to—per one Nobel laureate—grow economies that benefitted a few. Dillard advocates for groups to be transparent about the “whole truth” concerning the impact of family policies on their progress and to adopt internal employment policies that start to change this.

Dillard also served as general counsel at Animal Outlook and director of farmed animal litigation at the Humane Society of the United States. He has taught on the faculties or held appointments at the University of Oxford, Lewis and Clark Law School, Emory University School of Law, and Loyola University New Orleans, College of Law.

Dillard has been invited to speak at the United Nations World Civic Forum and dozens of other conferences. He has appeared on Fox Business News, and his work has appeared in the New York Times, Salon, The Hill, Washington Times, and the International Herald Tribune.

One Green Planet | March 2024

Many pride themselves on being Animal rights lawyers. In 2018 and 2019 activists from Direct Action Everywhere engaged in the mass rescue of chickens and ducks from two Sonoma County, California, factory farms. The animal lawyering around that case is changing the nature of animal law.

Animal lawyers have traditionally sued many companies and governments to try to protect animals. But the law exempts from protection the vast majority of animals, is rarely if ever enforced, and even if animal rights lawyers have a good case, courts are likely to dismiss the case for political reasons – often urging the lawyers to first get more clarity from legislatures.

Sri Lanka Guardian | November 2023

U.S. prosecutors have charged more penalties for activists revealing blatant animal mistreatment than they have charged factory farms with committing it. This trend is a glaring miscarriage of justice, and it must be reversed.

Newsweek | March 2023

The trolley problem is a story philosophers often use to get people thinking about ethics and their obligations to others. Traditionally, the problem has us imagine we are an onlooker standing next to a trolley track. There are five people tied to the track ahead of a moving trolley. We have the choice to save the five by pulling a lever and diverting the trolley to another track. But there is someone tied to that other track. If we pull the lever, we save the five, but the trolley will certainly kill the one person.

What's the right thing to do?

Fair Start Movement | March 2023

Many nonprofits raised billions of dollars over the last several decades claiming to have protected various ecosystems, saved animals from factory farms, hauled children out of dangerous conditions, or improved human rights and democracy.

Media ran thousands of stories containing stealth advertising, claiming reductions in climate emissions from things like dietary change, or energy conversions, while simultaneously pushing women to have more kids in order to grow the unsustainable economies relied upon by their advertisers and parent companies.

Businesses sunk hundreds of millions of dollars into advertising their green, sustainable, environmentally friendly, and other claims.

Fair Start Movement | 2023

While a lot has been said about the failures of effective altruism as an ethic, few see a fundamental flaw in its design: The assumption that the wealth referred to in the concept was fully owned by the wealthy donors—like Peter Singer—who kindly would choose to give it away.

That’s incorrect. There is a baseline error at work in the movement.

An Interview with Carter Dillard, Fair Start Movement
Co-authors: Scott E. Mortman | Millennium Alliance for Humanity and Biosphere | February 2023

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 (FSM), 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, explains Carter Dillard, policy director of FSM, in this interview.

Newsweek | January 2023

Climate activists around the world have spent years urging the courts to force governments and companies to do more to mitigate the climate crisis, often invoking fundamental human rights as a way to override the political processes that are failing to act. Many of those cases center on the idea that there is a constitutional right to a healthy environment, which courts should be protecting. Often the heart of this approach – embodied in litigation brought by groups like Our Children's Trust (OCT) - is defined by what would be good for humans, an anthropocentric approach, rather than what would be good for the vast and disparate number of more fragile nonhuman species with whom we share the world.

Fair Start Movement | December 2022

Animals do not benefit from human population growth. Why do their advocates promote it?

Animal rights, as a social movement, has largely failed. During a time when advocates promoted flashy “wins” like ballot initiatives, animal use skyrocketed based on pro-growth policies that most animal advocates did nothing to oppose, even as those policies were being ramped up and crucial funding that could have blunted the climate crisis was being redirected to ineffective uses.

Fair Start Movement | May 2022

While the pro-choice lobby and legal maneuvering meant to protect the right to terminate a pregnancy has focused on women’s bodily autonomy, there are actually at least three interests at stake in that decision: 1) Women’s bodily autonomy, 2) the interests of the future child (not the fetus, but the child that would have otherwise existed), and 3) the interests of society more generally. As a safe rule of thumb if a mother does not want to have a child, interests two and three are not going to go very well.

And while women’s bodily autonomy is crucial, interests two and three actually precede it because that autonomy occurs after and within the formation of society—which is the thing two and three account for.

Publications by this author
Eliva Press | September 2021

“Heidegger wants us to recapture the sense of people as unique and valuable, and this seems like the central argument of Dillard’s book.”

How did we ever come to believe in the myth of intentional, just and legitimate systems of social organization—like states, corporations, and families—without actually accounting for the fair creation, development and consensual inclusion of future generations—the majority of persons—into those systems? How is consent, or self-determination, possible without that account? What norm could possibly precede that account?

These articles—several peer-reviewed and originally published by Yale, Duke, Northwestern and other universities—will argue that, abstraction aside, there is no real justice without ensuring all children a fair start in life, both socially and ecologically.

We first move towards justice by reforming the moral and legal right to have children, and the family planning systems the right creates, around zero baseline —or Fair Start—modeling that through collective child-centric planning enables consent to power and thus relative self-determination against the true baseline of nonpolity. Without it, we never orient our actions from a just, or inclusive and reflective, position.

Feature | March 2022

In “Sentientist Conversations” Jamie Woodhouse and Carter Dillard talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.”

The audio is on our Podcast: https://apple.co/391khQO & https://pod.link/1540408008.

Interview | March

Jack Humphrey: Give us a synopsis of your piece in Newsweek.

Carter Dillard: So there are really at least two ways to approach environmentalism and protecting our environment. There's the anthropocentric approach, which treats nature as a human resource and resources to be conserved. And there's an ecocentric approach which treats nature or the non-human world as a living system that deserves its own rights and obligations to it because there are creatures that live there that have their own autonomous worlds, their own desires and their own lives, and inevitably anthropocentrism—or using the non-human world or nature as a human resource—is what created the climate crisis. It we thought we could control that system of use, we are unable to control it.

Events with this author

RIP SDG? Are the UN Sustainable Development Goals Enough to Save Us? (Scientists Warning Europe)

Tue, 15 November 2022, 18:00 – 20:00 GMT

Join Scientists Warning Europe for the third event in our Road to COP27 series.

This session includes a 45-minute panel discussion, followed by a 30-minute Q&A session where attendees are invited to share ideas and explore topics further.

Panelists include:

• Ed Gemmell - Managing Director of Scientists Warning Europe, Climate Politician • Naomi Sheehan - Sustainable Development Scientist & Climate Advisor • Carter Dillard - Fair Start Movement Policy Advisor • Victoria Harvey - PhD researcher, Climate Change at University East Anglia • Steve Pipe - Author and former UK Entrepreneur of The Year


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