The Rights of Future Generations

Wilfred Beckerman and Joanna Pasek

in Justice, Posterity, and the Environment

Published in print May 2001 | ISBN: 9780199245086
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191598784 | DOI:
 The Rights of Future Generations

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It is widely believed that environmental conservation has to be guided by respect for the ‘rights’ of future generations. But it is argued in this chapter that it may not be plausible to think in terms of the ‘rights’ of future generations in general or their rights to any specific environmental assets. Future generations may well have rights when they come into existence, but these will only be rights that can be satisfied at the time. But ‘rights’ do not exhaust the whole of morality, and future generations will certainly have interests, which means that we are under moral obligation to take account of them and of the effect that our environmental policies may have on them. Thus, the problem is to predict what the main interests of future generations will be and how to weigh them up against the interests of people alive today. It is argued that this approach will lead to a very different ranking of priorities among our moral obligations to future generations.

Keywords: conservation; environmental policy; future generations; interests; morality; rights

Chapter.  9565 words. 

Subjects: Environment

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