Ethics & the Environment, Volume 3, Number 2, Fall 1998
FUTURE GENERATIONS, NATURAL RESOURCES, AND PROPERTY RIGHTS
In an important recent article, "Contemporary Property Rights, Lockean Provisos, and the
Interests of Future Generations," Clark Wolf argues that sometimes the interests of future
generations should take precedence over the claims of current property rights holders.
Wolf's arguments concentrate on the genesis and nature of defensible property rights in
various natural resources, and on the conditions under which morally unacceptable harm
is caused to others.
In this paper I explore two central sets of issues. First, I investigate how the argument
holds up when labor is involved in discovering, developing or preparing natural resources
for appropriation. I consider some persuasive reasons why one might think Wolf's arguments
lose force in such cases. I also indicate how to accommodate these concerns without
diminishing the force of Wolf's main arguments. Second, I show how either the examples Wolf
uses do not support the conclusion he is pressing, or the argument has extremely far-reaching
implications. I argue that either of these conclusions is problematic for Wolf's argument
as thus far developed.
KANTIAN ETHICS AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY ARGUMENT: AUTONOMY, ECOSYSTEM INTEGRITY, AND OUR DUTIES TO NATURE
John Martin Gillroy
In this essay I will argue that, preconceptions notwithstanding, Immanuel Kant does have
an environmental ethics which uniquely contributes to two current debates in the field.
First, he transcends the controversy between individualistic and holistic approaches to
nature with a theory that considers humanity in terms of the autonomy of moral individuals
and nature in terms of the integrity of functional wholes.
Second, he diminishes the gulf between Conservationism and Preservationism. He does this by
constructing an ideal-regarding conception of the former that values nature not as "merely"
a thing to be used by human preferences and translated by markets, but as an essential
component and prerequisite to the intrinsic autonomy of human beings. Simultaneously, he
argues for a definition of preservation which places responsibility on humanity to harmonize
moral agency with the functional integrity of natural systems. Here humanity and nature
become the two unique and equally important components of what we might call the greater
In addition to the theoretical contributions of Kant's approach to our appreciation of the
duties we owe to our natural environment, I will also suggest that Kantian Conservationism
and Kantian Preservationism provide a sound moral basis for public policy arguments that
wish to take the intrinsic value of humanity and nature into account. By requiring decision
makers to consider citizens as ethical ends and nature as a functional end-in-itself, public
choice becomes a process of restricting the use of the "kingdom of nature" to the essential
requirements of "kingdom of ends."
ON THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF A HUNTING ETHIC
Charles J. List
This paper challenges the claim made by critics and some defenders of hunting, that any
ethical code hunters chose to follow is irrelevant to the issue of the morality of
hunting. My case is made by (1) constructing a hunting code which meets certain prominent
objections to their moral significance, (2) conceptually tying this code to an
environmental ethic--Leopold's land ethic, and (3) tying the land ethic to a traditional
moral theory--Aristotelian virtue ethics. So, the constructed code is morally significant
because it is consistent with and made intelligible by a standard moral theory.
ETHICAL THEORY VERSUS UNETHICAL PRACTICE: RADIATION PROTECTION AND FUTURE GENERATIONS
The main international standard-setting agencies for ionizing radiation, the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP)
both subscribe to principles which (they claim) lead to equitable protection for all
generations exposed to radioactive pollution. Yet, when one examines the practices both
groups support, it is clear that these practices discriminate against future generations
with respect to radioactive pollution. After showing (1) that the IAEA and ICRP rhetoric of
equity does not match their policies and practices, the essay argues (2) that current people
ought to try to treat members of future generations equitably with respect to protection
from radioactive pollution. The essay also argues (3) that current policies of permanent
disposal of high-level radioactive waste do not meet the second criterion, and therefore
(4) that society ought to investigate whether another strategy for managing the waste would
provide better equal protection among all generations.