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:

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It is recalled that serious doubts can be raised concerning the status of theories such as those pertaining to the rights of future generations, or the constraints imposed on us by theories of intergenerational justice. At the same time, we do have moral obligations to future generations. But these must be based on an appraisal of what are likely to be the main interests that future generations will have and which of these are most likely to be under permanent threat. These, it is argued, will be in the field of human relations rather than in the field of the environment. It is concluded, therefore, that the most important bequest we can make to future generations is to leave them a society in which there is a greater respect for basic human rights than is the case today throughout most of the world. And since the best way of bequeathing a more decent society to future generations is, of course, to improve the respect for human rights today, there is no conflict of interest between the present generation and future generations. Hence, theories of intergenerational distributive justice are not only untenable but are also unnecessary.

Keywords: environment; future generations; human relations; human rights; interests; justice; moral obligation

Chapter.  3281 words. 

Subjects: Environment

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