Neutrality, Nature, and Intergenerational Justice

Environmental Politics 1 (2020)
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Suppose the present generation leaves future ones with a world depleted of all the natural resources required for many valuable human pursuits. Has the present generation acted unjustly? According to contemporary theories of liberal egalitarian intragenerational and intergenerational justice, the answer, it appears, is no. The explanation for this verdict lies in the liberal commitment to remaining neutral between different ways of life: many value-laden environ- mental sites and species are not an all-purpose means to any reasonable human end and so their existence is not directly relevant in an assessment of whether justice obtains. Against this view, I argue that a commitment to neutrality and its underlying justification – the idea that individuals should be equipped to live lives of their own design – in fact supports the opposite conclusion. If justice requires that citizens can pursue whatever way of life they do or might value, then it will also demand the continued existence of the natural resources necessary for those pursuits.

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Britta Clark
Harvard University


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