Intergenerational ethics and individual duties: A cooperative promotional approach

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Abstract

This chapter defends a cooperative promotional model of individual intergenerational moral duties. The individual can feel powerless and detached in the face of intergenerational moral challenges, which generally result from the combined actions of billions of people and require global-level solutions. Two individual duties are commonly debated: to promote effective collective action and to minimize one’s own contribution to the problem, for example, by cutting one’s carbon footprint. The cooperative promotional model incorporates both possibilities, including in many cases a duty to have a small family. The argument starts by assuming a shared or “weakly collective” duty requiring the global affluent to organize to avoid severe intergenerational injustice, a claim widely defended on positive and negative grounds. On the cooperative promotional model, each individual must cooperate with motivated others as far as reasonably possible to promote fair, effective, efficient collective-level progress toward this collective end. In determining how to act, individuals must consider collective or reliably coordinated action as well as the chance of triggering significant change through adding to aggregated individual actions. The account does not automatically require “taking up the slack” for obstructive individuals and institutions—it will often mandate cooperating to increase compliance—but is complicated by the need to adjust for unwilling duty bearers.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Intergenerational Ethics
EditorsStephen M. Gardiner
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190881931
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Apr 2021

Keywords

  • intergenerational ethics
  • intergenerational justice
  • intergenerational duty
  • individual climate duty
  • cooperative promotional model
  • emissions cutting duty
  • small family duty

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