Applied Ethics Forum: Molly Gardner

Applied Ethics Forum

Molly Gardner (Bowling Green University), ‘Doing Right By Future Generations’
Thursday March 9th 2017, 3:30pm–5:00pm in PH1–135

Abstract: There are multiple arguments against engaging in environmentally destructive practices like clearing rainforests, burning fossil fuels, and dumping industrial waste into rivers. This talk focuses on one of these arguments, in particular: the argument that we owe it to future generations to minimize environmental degradation. In recent decades, philosophers have raised strong objections to this argument. One objection is that future people do not exist, so we cannot owe anything to them. Another is that economic growth will compensate future people for any damage we are causing to their environment. A third objection, which arises from what is known as the “non-identity problem,” appeals to the notion that future people will owe their very existence to the environmentally destructive practices we are currently engaging in, so they would prefer that these practices continue. In this talk I will defend the appeal to future generations against all three of these objections. I will conclude that these objections fail, and that we do, indeed, owe it to future generations to refrain from further damaging the environment.