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Justice, Posterity, and the Environment$
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Wilfred Beckerman and Joanna Pasek

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199245086

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0199245088.001.0001

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The Rights of Future Generations

The Rights of Future Generations

Chapter:
(p.11) 2 The Rights of Future Generations
Source:
Justice, Posterity, and the Environment
Author(s):

Wilfred Beckerman

Joanna Pasek

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0199245088.003.0002

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

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