1988 volume 20(11) pages 1507 – 1522
doi:10.1068/a201507

Cite as:
Tonn B E, 1988, "Philosophical aspects of 500-year planning" Environment and Planning A 20(11) 1507 – 1522

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Philosophical aspects of 500-year planning

B E Tonn

Received 16 October 1987; in revised form 21 March 1988

Abstract. A class of environmental problems, termed 500-year problems, poses significant threats to the world's societies. In 500-year planning there is a need for a sound philosophical foundation to guide the development of appropriate methods which analyze problems that cover very long time periods and that involve large uncertainties. In this paper philosophical aspects of 500-year planning, related to determining whether present generations are meeting their obligations to future generations, are addressed. Topics discussed include the treatment of future populations (as identifiable individuals or as enumerable groups) and the appropriate base for 500-year planning (utilitarianism or social contract theory). Adopting Rawls's concepts of the original position and of the veil of ignorance, a social contract is developed that guarantees the possibility of existence for all potential individuals, and sets limits on the risks that current and future populations might endure as a result of their ancestors' abuse of the environment. The specifics of the contract represent rational criteria upon which to base 500-year planning activities.

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