Uture Generations and Decisions on the Environment

Essay Assignment

At the conclusion of each course section I will distribute a paper topic. You are required to write papers on four of the seven course sections. (You may also write on a topic of your choosing. If you decide to do your own topic, you are required to have the topic approved by me.) Your essay is to be typed, single-spaced, with 12 point font and one inch margins. It is to be no longer than two pages. This paper is due by June 28, and should be passed in through the assignment section of blackboard. Papers are expected to be free of grammatical and spelling errors. Be clear and concise. Explain your terms and defend your claims. Your paper will be assessed on how clearly and completely you present the views we studied, how well you defend your assessments of those views, and how well you defend your own views. Below you will find the first paper topic for the Global Warming, Future Generations, and Consumption section of the course. If you have any questions about these papers or want to discuss your ideas with me ahead of turning them in, you are welcome to come to my office hours or make an appointment to meet with me. However, I do not read drafts of papers.

Future Generations

The problem of future generations is this: How should future generations of people (or non-humans) be considered in ethical deliberations? It is a common view that people in future generations have some moral standing. That is, we ought to consider how our activities will impact them and this should inform our deliberations on what to do. However, we have seen that there are some challenges to this view–the swamping problem, the unknown needs problem, the non-existence problem, the indeterminate problem, and so on. If future generations are to be taken into account in ethical deliberations it cannot be for the same reasons and in the same ways as actual people. That is, people in future generations cannot have the same value and same moral considerability as currently existing people.
The core questions for this paper are these: 1. Should the interests of future generation be taken into account when making environmental (and other) ethics/policy decisions? 2. If so, why should they be? (And if not, why not?) 3. If so, how should they be? That is, how should we consider future generations in ethical and policy decision making? We have discussed several views relevant to these questions, and it is perfectly appropriate to draw from, respond to, and build upon those views. However, be sure to provide your arguments/reasons for preferring the view that you do–whether it is some variation/combination of the ones that we discussed or some other view.
As stated above, these papers will be evaluated on how clearly and accurately you present the views we have studied, how well you defend your assessment of those views, and how well you defend your own view. Be sure to clarify your terms when necessary and defend your claims. You should also try to anticipate objections to your arguments and respond to them.