Bad ancestors: does the climate crisis violate the rights of those yet to be born?
Our environmental vandalism has made urgent the question of ethical responsibilities across decades and centuries
What if climate breakdown is a violation of the rights of those yet to be born? Finally, this urgent question seems to be getting the attention it deserves. Last month an astonishing 7 million people from nearly 200 countries took to the streets as part of the youth-led global climate strike. Young people around the world recognize that the disastrous repercussions of the already present ecological crisis will fall disproportionately on their shoulders, and the shoulders of generations to come – in particular on those whose communities have emitted the smallest proportion of greenhouse gasses.
Greta Thunberg, whose “school strike for the climate” ignited a movement, often speaks on behalf of those who don’t yet exist. Addressing the UN climate action summit in Manhattan on 23 September she denounced the assembled adults for pursuing money over morality and embracing “fairytales of eternal economic growth” instead of facing the facts of hard science. “Young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” she said. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: we will never forgive you.”