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What's Wrong With Dumping Radioactive Wastes in the Ocean? The Surprising Ethical and Policy Analysis Implications of the Problem of Person-Altering Consequences

December 2008

Citation: ELR 10873

Author: Gregory Scott Crespi

Editor's Summary: A commonly cited rationale for environmental protection is the ethical obligation to protect the planet and its resources for the

use and enjoyment of future generations. However, as Gregory Scott Crespi argues in this Article, this rationale, if based on conventional ethical premises, is misguided. He explains that policy decisions have person-altering consequences, meaning that any decision made in the present will eventually cause entirely different future generations to be born than if the decision were made differently. Thus, we have no ethical obligations to future generations distant enough from us in time for their members to all have had their genetic identities significantly altered by those person-altering consequences, since any policy that we might pursue would be endorsed by those future persons since it would be a necessary condition of their existence.

Gregory Scott Crespi is a Professor of Law at the Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University. He would like to thank Dan Esty, Jeff Kahn, and Chris Nygaard for their extensive and insightful comments on earlier drafts of this Article.

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