EPE Values - Intergenerational Equity

Intergenerational equity is a value concept which focuses on the rights of future generations. It is a notion that is implicit in ecological sustainability. However, since skills to facilitate thinking about long term consequences are not typically included in educational curricula, this value is presented as distinct from ecological sustainability to emphasize the need for thinking about how human actions that directly or indirectly degrade the environment in the present will affect future generations of humans and other life forms. Intergenerational equity is a notion that views the human community as a partnership among all generations. Each generation has the right to inherit the same diversity in natural and cultural resources enjoyed by previous generations and to equitable access to the use and benefits of these resources. At the same time, the present generation is a custodian of the planet for future generations, obliged to conserve this legacy so that future generations may also enjoy these same rights. In this way, intergenerational equity extends the scope of social justice into the future.

Questions for ethical reflection
  1. Do citizens of future generations have the right to benefit from Earth’s resources and our global community’s cultural wealth? Why? Why not? How will the impact of human activities on Earth’s life support systems affect the rights of citizens of future generations?
  2. How can the appropriateness of this impact be measured or determined?
  3. What are the responsibilities of citizens in the present generation for ensuring that future generations actually benefit from and have access to the same benefits enjoyed by their previous generations?
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