Whether we should think about the future of the environment as a matter of doing justice to future generations, is based upon the grounds to which we should be obliged to work to protect the environment. The protection of the environment is a basic human duty and a natural law to which we all depend upon to live from day-to-day. It is a duty by individuals, organisations and governments to incorporate policy approaches to fulfill this. As part of the Intergenerational Justice concept, the extents and limits of Social Justice regarding the need to protect the natural environment, justify the basis to which we owe duties, to us and the future generations to follow.
This essay will discuss whether we should be obliged to work today to protect the environment, for the needs and interests of future generations. On the other hand, whether it comes down to the basic deep ecological view that nature is intrinsically valuable. Furthermore, considerations will be addressed on protecting the environment as a matter of Justice to future generations, and if so, on what grounds.
The global nature of threats to the environment and the necessity of international cooperation were first recognized in the UN’s Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in 1972. The Stockholm Declaration issued by the conference recognized the right to a healthy environment, on the part of both present and future generations, and called for countries to preserve nonrenewable resources and to prevent damage to ecosystems and to the earth’s atmosphere. Environmental intergenerational duties and natural law are two theories used to weigh up the extent to which we have a duty to protect the natural environment. The extents and limits of social justice in the intergenerational concept justify the basis of how and why we owe our duties.
Northcott argues the location of the origins of the current environmental crisis in the rise of modernist science and economics, and emphasises that a solution to the issues lies in the Christian tradition of Natural Law ethics. Northcott also emphasises the non-religious, natural law abiding reasoning for the basis of protecting the natural environment, through social and anthropological arguments – as well as evaluating Natural Law precepts are found under all religious denominations in the Modern Society. Whether this gives grounds for protecting the environment is up to debate. There is an emphasis that Natural Law and intergenerational duties cover all humans. Thus, we all have the duty to protect and not just exploit with disregard for the future generations.
A just account of the environment will take into consideration both the fact that people have legitimate interests, and there must be limits on people’s environmental impacts. The Egalitarian concept presses the position of equality of opportunity requires us to protect the natural environment, through our ability to live a good life should not be undermined by unchosen circumstances – factors beyond our control. Such factors would be that of future generations who have to live a limited life due to a damaged environment. People both in the present and the future must have sufficient resources so that there is equal opportunity to live a good life.
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Protecting the environment for future generations must incorporate whole society movements and changes to everyday life to ensure that the natural environment is protected from today, so forth for future generations. Since the 1980s, the concept of sustainability has been adopted to describe a compromise between the need for economic development and the protection of resources for future generations. Schumacher takes the principle challenge through the Buddhist economic approach on the principle of âright livelihoodâ. This illustrates the types of radical changes and challenges to individual economies, which cannot be sustained by the poor nations. Further to this the challenges in protecting the natural environment as a matter of justice. Industrial development is the temporary cushion and developments which can offer medium-term benefits to poor countries, and coordinated through international action; though proves difficult under such circumstances. Bridging the gap between global coordinationcommunication and individuals lifestyle choices, could have the ability to create the grounds for the radical change necessary at this point.
Deep Ecology has shaped the understanding of Arne Naess and Val Plumwood, forming the foundational argument on the basis of why the natural environment has to be protected for future generations. That nature does not need protection, but requires protection. From the deep ecology perspective, the natural world must be preserved due to its inherent value and humans should only affect it to protect vital needs. In this argument humans should not seek to protect the environment, rather that nature is intrinsically valuable. In Reasons and Person (1984) Derek Parfit illustrates the problem with an influential basic observation, Future persons cannot be rendered worse off by our unsustainable living. Rather, the particular people who will exist in the future will do so as a result of how we decide to live our lives. John Rawls goes further to suggest environmental degradation threatens political stability and access to goods upon which many rights depend. However, as Richard Hiskes argues, the modern dilemma inquiries humans to look after the environment as a matter of moral obligation, rather than an actual requirement of Justice.
Through the concept of Human Rights another approach is addressed. As a key moral value, endorsed by adherents to a wide variety of different philosophical perspectives. Through a human rights perspective the environment matters, at least in part, because environmental degradation undermines core human rights to food and water, to health, and to life. The Libertarian case brings an unusual approach. Libertarian theorists are in favour of robust private property rights, and individuals should not be expected to transfer their property or spend their income or resources for their protection. As Liebell explains, environmental degradation is a problem for liberalism, but through John Locke’s work linked the values of freedom, fairness, and equality to the natural world. A libertarian would think that there is no injustice if the harms wholly arose from natural phenomena, and were not caused by humans. At this present time, climate change, biodiversity loss, or acid rain, are key examples of the environmental impact of human behaviour. Thus, it is justified for a liberalitarian to intercept individual freedoms.
Boulding argues that Humans have traditionally acted as though they live in a Cowboy Economy – an economy with unlimited opportunities – suggesting that this type of Human behaviour towards, what essentially is the environment, has encouraged exploitative, and violent behaviour. In support of this, the Utilitarian principle argues that we should always choose the course of actions that will maximise the amount of happiness or well-being in the world. The Utilitarian case questions why the well-being of future generations should be considered in our calculation to those who live now, and through accepting this premise, then there is clearly an obligation to protect and save natural resources for the future.
To conclude, the natural environment should be protected for future generations based on a moral duty, and a matter of intergenerational justice. The intrinsic value of nature for human life, should be preserved through the equality of opportunity for future generations to have the same opportunities as those today. Further to this the liberal view demonstrates that what is left (through property means) should be enough and as good for others. Therefore, protecting the natural environment, not only benefits the individual but future generations that will follow.