Sustainability Impeded

Environmental Ethics 30 (2):159-174 (2008)
Some anthropogenic environmental changes that produce net benefits for the current generation will also produce foreseeable net harms to future generations. Well recognized as “time-lag effects,” these changes are environmental issues with strongly differential benefits and burdens between generations. Some of the world’s largest environmental issues fall into this category, including biodiversity loss and global climate change. The intractability of these issues for Western governments is not merely a practical problem of avoiding unpopular policy options; it is a theoretical problem for liberal democracy. Current conceptions of political legitimacy authorize governments to act for the benefit of their respective current citizens but not for future generations. A liberal democratic government is not authorized to enact policies for the benefit of future generations if so doing would entail unwanted constraints on the current electorate. To do so would fall beyond the jurisdiction—the legitimate scope of decision making—of government. The result is an entire category of environmental issues that is largely beyond the jurisdiction of government to resolve. These are ultra vires environmental issues. To the extent that the concept of sustainability embodies intergenerational justice, then current conceptions of political legitimacy are impeding sustainability.
Keywords Applied Philosophy  General Interest
Categories (categorize this paper)
ISBN(s) 0163-4275
DOI 10.5840/enviroethics20083024
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history
Request removal from index
Download options
Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 28,208
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
Time Preference, the Environment and the Interests of Future Generations.E. Wesley & F. Peterson - 1993 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 6 (2):107-126.
Environmental Ethics and Intergenerational Equity.Robin Attfield - 1998 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 41 (2):207 – 222.
The Morality Behind Sustainability.Jeffrey Burkhardt - 1989 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 2 (2):113-128.
Beyond the Earth Charter.Robin Attfield - 2007 - Environmental Ethics 29 (4):359-367.
Economics, Ethics, and Long-Term Environmental Damages.Clive L. Spash - 1993 - Environmental Ethics 15 (2):117-132.
Future Generations and Business Ethics.Ronald Jeurissen & Gerard Keijzers - 2004 - Business Ethics Quarterly 14 (1):47-69.
Conservation, Foresight, and the Future Generations Problem.Steve Vanderheiden - 2006 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 49 (4):337 – 352.
Normative Dimensions of Sustainable Energy Policy.Sanya Carley - 2011 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (2):211 - 229.

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

17 ( #285,171 of 2,172,662 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #172,670 of 2,172,662 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.

Other forums