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Sustainability under Uncertainty: A Deontological Approach

Richard B. Howarth
Land Economics
Vol. 71, No. 4 (Nov., 1995), pp. 417-427
DOI: 10.2307/3146707
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3146707
Page Count: 11
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Sustainability under Uncertainty: A Deontological Approach
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Abstract

A deontological (or "Kantian") approach to intergenerational fairness suggests that sustainability criteria should be imposed as prior constraints on the maximization of social preferences concerning the distribution of welfare between present and future generations. In particular, it is plausible to assert that each successive generation holds a duty to ensure that the expected welfare of its offspring is no less than its own perceived well being. This moral rule implies a bias against actions that generate present benefits but impose the risk of irreversible future losses if the preservation of options would allow for improved decisions as new information became available.

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