Moral Obligation to Future Generations

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It is my opinion that we as a species absolutely have a moral obligation to future generations to leave the environment in as good or better a condition then it was in when we were entrusted with it. I would go as far as to say that it is in our nature as human beings to protect the environment.  As much as I would like to lay claim to this, it is not a new idea.  This idea is in our public policies already, and it is defiantly moral to follow the law.  I feel that there are ways of fulfilling these obligations and they are very possible. Fulfilling this obligation would not have to entail loss to the quality of life we now enjoy.  I also do not think making the changes involved would be all that difficult of a feat to accomplish.

I believe that it is in our nature as human beings to perpetuate our species, in other words it is in our nature to reproduce.  If we are to produce future generations it would be wrong and unintelligent to bring these future generations into a damaged world they could not conceivably have the same opportunities in as we have now.  It would not seem to make much sense not to ensure that future generations would have the opportunity to reproduce and perpetuate the species.  If they don’t have clean water and air as well as all the other necessities for life to go on then there really isn’t a point in having children or caring about ourselves as a species. 

The question here is whether or not we have a moral obligation to protect the environment.  I guess I would in turn ask if it is in fact moral to follow the law and public policies laid out by our government for our government to monitor and enforce.   We have in our policies a basic idea of what we call public trust or what the Romans called commons.  This means that shared resources such as clean air, and clean free-flowing water, fish, game, and all of the planets wildlife reserves can not become private property for the reason of keeping them freely available to all living people and for all that will be alive as those who have lived in the past did for us.  It also means these resources are placed in the trust of our government and in the trust of the people to protect these resources and to ensure that they stay stable and available to all people.  This should go so far as to encompass things like not causing a nuclear holocaust, punching holes in the ozone layer with harmful pollution, or by warming the globe so as to cause flooding that could cause an ice age prematurely as well as planting trees and not over fishing our waters, or recycling.

We also have in our country what is generally a highly respected government document called, The Declaration of Independence, which grants us unalienable rights such as the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  I can’t imagine a person being very happy or living a full life when they can not get health care to pay for the asthma medication they need for a sickness that has been caused by unclean air due to pollution.  I also can not imagine the government is protecting their right to life, or to the pursuit of happiness, nor is the public trust being properly served if pollution is going unregulated or even being allowed at all. 

When talking about future generations it is often wondered how many generations into the future are we actually talking about?  This question, I of coarse think is a valid and very good question for anyone to be asking.  I think this initially means future generations to be my children, my grandchildren, and my great grandchildren, or any future generation I may conceivably come into contact with in my lifetime.  This is at least covering three generations and if these generations have the same obligations to future generations then the cycle of protecting the environment will have been kept going.   When we have knowledge of damage done to the environment by humans that has an impact on life lasting into generations farther then three down the line, I would say we also have a moral obligation to take steps to repair these damages in the interests of these distant future generations.  These steps would be passed on through more immediate future generations as would any protection policy, thus helping to perpetuate the protection of future generations and the environment. 

 Educating people about what is going on with and in the world is a great way of solving some of our problems with the environment.  The media is a useful tool when it comes to getting the information about environmental issues out to the public.  Advertising, movies, and television shows can all incorporate information on environmental problems and solutions to these problems. They can also be used as tools to teach theory and ideas about environmental solutions and problems.    Also, educating our young about the environment and how to live more sustainable, environmentally friendly lives would have a huge impact on solving these problems.  Making classed available in elementary school teaching kids about the environment and all its working systems and why it is important to be mindful of it. In high school, classes could be focused on sustainable living options, and in college I think classes geared around the research on global problems and solutions would be appropriate. Better educating the people about laws and public policy would also serve for the greater protection of the environment.  

Family planning is another important option I think we should be considering here.  Educating our children about sex and reproduction is something I believe to be necessary.  I do not think our current system of abstinence only programs is doing very much good in the way of population control or controlling the spread of costly diseases.  I think teaching our children about abstinence is great but it should be expanded to learning about sex, STD’s, birth control, condoms, abortion, adoption, and anything else that is related that I may have forgotten to mention here. 

Yet another option would be to make environmental issues non-partisan.  I really think at this point environmental issues are a big enough concern to be included on every candidate’s agenda and should be on the minds of every constituent.  We could set up something like a non profit organization to be in control of environmental protection instead of environmental issues being governmentally controlled.  This agency could be used for research and technology, policy writing for regulations, grant writing for educational programs, wildlife protection, and so on and so forth.  

A popular question when talking about implementing change in government and education is “How are we going to pay for this?”  My suggestion is taxes.  To help fund health costs incurred by pollution and other environmental ills I think we should tax those that are the cause of such ill effects on our environment and people.  Implement a small tax on fast foods and junk foods and put it toward health care.  Tax the oil companies to cover the costs of cleaning up damages they have caused and to health care.  Cigarette companies could be taxed for these things as well as corporations that gross over a set amount of money a year.  Funding could also come from donations made by people and other organizations.  Taxes and donations could also go towards research and development of environmental problems and solutions to these problems.   This is possible to manage and to accomplish. 

It is my belief that we do have a moral obligation to future generations to protect the environment.  I think it is necessary to always remember and honor this obligation because it is no small matter it could mean saving our species.  Solutions to the environmental problems we now have are possible and do not have to be a burden on our everyday lives.  Planning for future generations is also possible and does not have to entail loss in quality of life.  We just need to actually start making changes and doing what we are obligated to do.

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