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Environmental Values

Can We Harm Future People?

Alan Carter

Environmental Values 10(2001): 429-454. doi: 10.3197/096327101129340903

It appears to have been established that it is not possible for us to harm distant future generations by failing to adopt long-range welfare policies which would conserve resources or limit pollution. By exploring a number of possible worlds, the present article shows, first, that the argument appears to be at least as telling against Aristotelian, rights-based and Rawlsian approaches as it seems to be against utilitarianism, but second, and most importantly, that it only holds if we fail to view moral agents as individuals. The article also concludes that the argument has profoundly counter-intuitive implications.

KEYWORDS: Future generations, Schwartz, Parfit, non-identity problem, person-affecting principle

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles:

The Future - For Better or Worse Ernest Partridge

On Harming Others: A Response to Partridge Alan Carter

Future Generations and Environmental Ethics. Lawrence E. Johnson

Some Theoretical Foundations for Radical Green Politics.Alan Carter

Environmental Risks, Uncertainty and Intergenerational Ethics. Kristian Skagen Ekeli

On the Moral Considerability of Homo sapiens and Other Species. Ronald Sandler and Judith Crane

Wrongful Harm to Future Generations: The Case of Climate Change.Marc D. Davidson

Person-Affecting Moral Theory, Non-Identity and Future People. Robert Huseby

Towards a Multidimensional, Environmentalist Ethic. Alan Carter

Deliberating Intergenerational Environmental Equity: A Pragmatic, Future Studies Approach. Matthew Cotton

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