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Environmental Values

How to Prepare for the Unknown? On the Significance of Future Generations and Future Studies in Environmental Policy

Jan J. Boersema

Environmental Values 10(2001): 35-58. doi: 10.3197/096327101129340732

The core question of this article is: how can we take account of the future and future generations if our knowledge of the future is so sparse? The importance of the future is discussed within the framework of our (linear) concept of time. After that it is argued that future generations do not constitute a new, let alone unique, element in the debate on the future. Two different routes to acquire knowledge about the future and prepare for the future are described. Both reflect facts and values of the present and the past instead of giving an accurate picture of the future. Finally the view is defended that future-focused activity should be based to a greater extent on durable principles. Some of these durable principles are presented and discussed.

KEYWORDS: Time, future, future generations, durable principles, environmental policy

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

How Would you Like your 'Sustainability', Sir? Weak or Strong? A Reply to my Critics. Wilfred Beckerman

Environmental Quality and the Quality of our Way of Life. Jan J. Boersema

In and Out of Time. Richard Gault

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