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"ETHICS, JUSTICE, DEMOCRACY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT: WHAT DO WE OWE FUTURE GENERATIONS?"Open Forum Series presented by Center for Environmental Policy

Emily Darrow

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.— "Ethics, Justice, Democracy, and the Environment: What Do We Owe Future Generations?," the third in the Open Forum series presented by the Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College, takes place on Thursday, February 24, at 7:30 p.m. The forum, free and open to the public, will address some of the most pressing questions about political order, social policy, obligations to future generations, and the environment. A reception with the panelists follows the forum.

"We are always doing something for Posterity, but I would fain see Posterity do something for us," wrote Joseph Addison in 1714. Panelist Brian Barry says that, "Since there is no way in which posterity can do anything for us, that sentiment implies that we have no obligations to future generations." Barry counters this idea saying, "To show that we must do what we can to leave our successors with a habitable globe, we need an account of moral obligation that does not make it rest on an exchange of benefits."

"It is daunting to think about controlling the environmental costs of human action fairly in the modern world," says panelist Ian Shapiro. "It is even more daunting to think about this problem once these costs flow, as they increasingly do, across the borders of existing countries and into the lives of people who have not yet been born. Despite an impressive array of principles concerning transnational and intergenerational justice," he continues, "theorists tend to be silent, or to throw up their hands in despair, when confronted with the obvious problems of implementing them." Shapiro argues for a different approach, one based on creative adaptation of existing institutions such as the torts system, which he calls "the best available system of democratic accountability. By expanding the rules of standing to sue for wrongful death and other torts across time and space, we can improve incentives to limit environmental pollution and increase accountability to those whose vital interests are likely to be at stake."

About the Panelists:

Brian Barry, Arnold A. Saltzman Professor in the Departments of Philosophy and Political Science at Columbia University, is the author of Theories of Justice and Justice as Impartiality. His new book, Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism, will be published this year.

Ian Shapiro is chairman of and professor in the political science department at Yale University, founder and former director of the Yale Program in Ethics, Politics, and Economics, editor of the Contemporary Political Theory series for Cambridge University Press, and former editor of NOMOS. Well-known for his writings on the moral foundations of politics, the theory of justice, and democracy, his most recent book is Democratic Justice and Global Justice.

Daniel Berthold-Bond, moderator, is professor of philosophy at Bard College and on the faculty of the Graduate School of Environmental Studies at Bard. The author of numerous publications, he teaches courses on environmental ethics, this semester a course, "Bioethics," which he developed with Bard faculty member Michael Tibbitts. The course is an interdisciplinary approach to issues in bioethics, exploring scientific, social, and ethical aspects of topics of contemporary concern.

Reservations are requested for the forum. Call 914-758-7071 or e-mail for further information.

The Open Forum series is sponsored by the Center for Environmental Policy (CEP) at Bard College, as part of its commitment to make current and important environmental issues available for widespread public discussion. Through education, research, and public service, the newly created CEP addresses local and global policy issues pertaining to the natural and built environments. At the core of CEP's activities is a two-year program leading to a master of science in environmental policy, beginning in autumn 2001.

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This event was last updated on 05-21-2003