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Conservation refers to the saving or rationing of natural resources for later use. In fact, even pollution control can be seen as a form of...


Conservation refers to the saving or rationing of natural resources for later use. In fact, even pollution control can be seen as a form of conservation, since pollution consumes air and water. However, generally, conservation refers to the saving of finite, depletable resources. The only source of such resources is what has been left over from previous generations. As we deplete the world's resources, there is unavoidably a smaller amount of them left for future generations. If future generations have an equal right to the world's resources, then by depleting them we are stealing what is actually theirs. A number of writers have claimed that it is a mistake to think that future generations have rights. They advance three main reasons to show this: First, future generations cannot intelligently be said to have rights because they do not now exist and may never exist. I may be able to think about future people, but I cannot hit them, punish them, injure them, or treat them wrongly. Future people exist only in the imagination, and imaginary entities cannot be acted on in any way whatsoever except in the imagination. Similarly, we cannot say that future people possess things now when they do not yet exist to possess or have them. Because there is a possibility that future generations may never exist, they cannot "possess" rights.
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What considerations are relevant for the ethics of conserving depletable resources? Do future generations have the same right to the earth's resources as we do? Do other countries have the same claim to resources, such as energy, as we do?
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