Conly, Sarah, and . One Child: Do We Have a Right to More?

2016, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Summary: A compelling argument for the morality of limitations on procreation in lessening the harmful environmental effects of unchecked population. We live in a world where a burgeoning global population has started to have a major and destructive environmental impact. The results, including climate change and the struggle for limited resources, appear to be inevitable aspects of a difficult future. Mandatory population control might be a possible last resort to combat this problem, but is also a potentially immoral and undesirable violation of human rights. Since so many view procreation as an essential component of the right to personal happiness and autonomy, the dominant view remains that the government does not have the right to impose these restrictions on its own citizens, for the sake of future people who have yet to exist. Sarah Conly is first to make the contentious argument that not only is it wrong to have more than one child in the face of such concerns, we do not even retain the right to do so. In One Child, Conly argues that autonomy and personal rights are not unlimited, especially if one’s body may cause harm to anyone, and that the government has a moral obligation to protect both current and future citizens. Conly gives readers a thought-provoking and accessible exposure to the problem of population growth and develops a credible view of what our moral obligations really are, to generations present and future.

Comment: This book would be an excellent resource for an upper-division course on population ethics, ethcs of reproduction, autonomy, or human rights. It would also serves as a good overview of positions in population ethics or as a supplement to a class on environmental ethics and future generations.

Gheaus, Anca, and . The Right to Parent and Duties Concerning Future Generations

2016, Journal of Political Philosophy 24(1): Early Online.

Introduction: The argument, in a nutshell, is:

  • P1: Each child has a right, against all, to adequate life prospects.
  • P2: For each child who has the potential, as an adult, to be an adequate parent, adequate life prospects require enough resources to justly raise children.
  • C1: Thus, each child who has the potential to be an adequate parent has a right, against all, to enough resources to justly raise children.
  • P3: The right to enough resources to justly raise children includes the right to enough resources to provide one’s children with enough resources to justly raise children.
  • C2: Thus, each child who has the potential, as an adult, to be an adequate parent has a right, against all, to enough resources to provide their children with enough resources to justly raise children.

The argument continues ad infinitum because P3 is recurrent—it can be reiterated for any number of future generations.

  • C3: Thus, each child who has the potential, as an adult, to be an adequate parent has a right, against all, to enough resources to provide an indefinite number of successors with enough resources to justly raise children.

Comment: Novel approach to climate change and intergenerational justice. Article argues that we owe it to future generations to ensure that they have access to sufficient resources to realise their right to parent by providing an adequate life for their children. Would make interesting reading in a module on either environmental justice or on the family.