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What Do We Owe the Future?

Bryan Norton

  • Professor of Philosophy, School of Public Policy, Georgia Tech

With so much poverty and so many social problems in the present, why worry about the future until we can care for present needs? Economist Robert Solow, defines this challenge as the "paradox of sustainability": "Today's poor want consumption and not investment. So the conflict is pretty deep and there is unlikely to be any way to resolve it." Does acting sustainably, and encouraging others to act sustainably, conflict with the obligations of intragenerational equity--equity for the poor and downtrodden of today? A new way of looking at intergenerational equity is proposed, based on the "community-performative" understanding of sustainability commitments.

Friday, September 30, 2005