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Deliberating Intergenerational Environmental Equity: A Pragmatic, Future Studies Approach


  • Matthew Cotton


Across the applied ethics literatures are a growing number of ethical tools: decision-support methodologies that encourage multi-stakeholder deliberative engagement with the social and moral issues arising from technology assessment and environmental management processes. This article presents a novel ethical tool for deliberation on the issue of environmental justice between current and future generations over long time frames. This ethical tool combines two approaches, linking John Dewey's concept of dramatic rehearsal - an empathetic and imaginative ethical deliberation process; with the methodologies of backcasting - a type of scenario planning technique drawn from the future studies literature. The proposed hybrid 'Deweyan Backcasting' approach combines a creative process of devising multi-stakeholder visions of potentially desirable futures, with practical evaluation of the technical, social and political networks necessary to make such futures happen. It is suggested that such a model can provide a fruitful means for evaluating intergenerational environmental equity issues in long-range policy and planning.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Cotton, 2013. "Deliberating Intergenerational Environmental Equity: A Pragmatic, Future Studies Approach," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 22(3), pages 317-337, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev22:ev2215

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robinson, John Bridger, 1982. "Energy backcasting A proposed method of policy analysis," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 337-344, December.
    2. Alan Carter, 2001. "Can We Harm Future People?," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 10(4), pages 429-454, November.
    3. Schelling, Thomas C, 1995. "Intergenerational discounting," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 23(4-5), pages 395-401.
    4. John McVea, 2007. "Constructing Good Decisions in Ethically Charged Situations: The Role of Dramatic Rehearsal," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 70(4), pages 375-390, February.
    5. Bryan G. Norton & Anne C. Steinemann, 2001. "Environmental Values and Adaptive Management," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 10(4), pages 473-506, November.
    6. Andy Stirling & Sue Mayer, 2001. "A novel approach to the appraisal of technological risk: a multicriteria mapping study of a genetically modified crop," Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 19(4), pages 529-555, August.
    7. Jane Collier, 2006. "The Art of Moral Imagination: Ethics in the Practice of Architecture," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 66(2), pages 307-317, June.
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    More about this item


    Intergenerational equity; environmental pragmatism; ethical tools; John Dewey; Dramatic Rehearsal; backcasting;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Q01 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General - - - Sustainable Development


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