The Cube, Faculty of Law (10 Saint Cross Road, Oxford)
Some have argued – both in the past and in the present – that it is is necessary to limit population if we are to leave future generations an environmentally sustainable planet. Some, for example, have argued that a couple can have at most one child (Conly 2015) and others have argued that each person may have no more than one child (Overall 2012). Is this kind of approach right? To answer this question we need to know (a) what principles of intergenerational justice apply to us, (b) what people should have fair shares of (wealth, welfare or something else?), (c) the nature of a just population policy, and (d) the determinants of environmental sustainability. When we consider these four elements, I argue, we can see that the calls for one child per person or per couple are not well-grounded. I defend instead an alternative approach which specifies a duty to live within our obligations to future generations but permits different ways of discharging this duty. This more liberal approach, I maintain, (i) fits better with the scientific understanding of the determinants of environmental sustainability, (ii) has the virtue of respecting choice and (iii) is more politically feasible. I conclude by addressing the objection that this treats children and consumption as equivalent in a morally objectionable way and that it fails to acknowledge the special importance of procreation.
About the speaker
Professor Simon CaneyProfessor Simon Caney is Co-Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Human Rights for Future Generations; Director of the Centre for the Study of Social Justice; Fellow and Tutor in Politics, Magdalen College; and Professor in Political Theory in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford.
Simon works on issues in contemporary political philosophy. Recently he has worked on the ethical issues surrounding global poverty, inequality, climate change, our obligations to future generations. He is currently writing two books – one, Global Justice and Climate Change (co-authored with Derek Bell) and the other Cosmopolitanism (both under contract to Oxford University Press).
Simon is also working on the ethical issues surrounding demographic change, how best to reform democratic institutions in order to give due protection to the interests of future generations, and the question of what those who bear the brunt of injustice are entitled to do to secure their own rights.