Environmental Ethics

Volume 41, Issue 3, Fall 2019

Inter-Continental Dialogues I

Stephen M. Gardiner
Pages 199-220

Motivating (or Baby-Stepping Toward) a Global Constitutional Convention for Future Generation

Recently, I have been arguing for a global constitutional convention focused on protecting future generations. This deliberative body would be akin to the American constitutional convention of 1787, which gave rise to the present structure of government in the United States. It would confront the “governance gap” that currently exists surrounding concern for future generations. In particular, contemporary institutions tend to crowd out intergenerational concern, and thereby facilitate a “tyranny of the contemporary.” They not only fail to address a basic standing threat to humanity and other species, but help that threat become manifest. Climate change is a prime example. In this paper, I sketch out a natural argumentative path toward the global constitutional convention and argue that is difficult to resist. I also insist that we should be evenhanded in the way we treat the proposal. Those who put their faith in alternatives (e.g., the emergence of a great leader, a grand alignment of interests, bottom up climate anarchism, or national governments understood as effective intergenerational stewards) must also confront standard complaints about naivety, urgency, threats to democratic values, and the like. Moreover, the global constitutional convention has the advantage of addressing the problem we face head on.