Volume 3, Issue 2, Summer 1981
Environmental Ethics and Rawls’ Theory of Justice
Although John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice does not deal specifically with the ethics of environmental concerns, it can generally be applied to give justification for the prudent and continent use of our natural resources. The argument takes two forms: one dealing with the immediate effects of environmental impact and the other, delayed effects. Immediate effects, which impact the present society, should be
subject to environmental controls because they affect health and opportunity, social primary goods to be dispensed by society. Delayed environmental impacts, affecting future generations, are also subject to control because future generations have a just claim upon our natural resources-the generation to which a person belongs is an arbitrary contingency which should not exclude persons not yet born from consideration in the original contract of society.