Conservation, foresight, and the future generations problem

Inquiry 49 (4):337 – 352 (2006)
Abstract
The practice of conservation assumes that current persons have some obligations to future generations, but these obligations are complicated by a number of philosophical problems, chief among which is what Derek Parfit calls the Non-Identity Problem. Because our actions now will affect the identities of persons to be born in the distant future, we cannot say that those actions either benefit or harm those persons. Thus, a causal link between our acts and their consequences for particular persons is severed, and the justification for conservation duties toward future generations undermined. I argue for an alternative justification for conservation in the capacity of foresight, which requires us to act not only upon duties that we have now, but also upon those that we will predictably have in the future. In this way, the future generations problem, at least as applied to conservation issues, is overcome.
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