last night the brooklyn future meetup y+30 was lead by graham hill of treehugger. he presented a view of the environment +30 years with a message centered around the fact that while we have the tools at hand to do more to stabilize the environment, the question becomes how fast, and at what pace, we feel like "moving towards the life boats". the presentation was exceedingly thought provoking, as was the conversation that followed. environmental issues, in my mind, are some of the toughest to discussion on a +30 year horizon because the impact is hard to conceptualize and exceedingly wide ranging across practical and philosophical dimensions.
what struck me most, was that it ended up hitting on many many of the same themes as i realize are driving my pointed dislike of rawls as of late.
at the end of graham's presentation he posed three questions for discussion, two of which were: a. "do we care about future generations of unborn children and strange animals" and b. "are we willing to sacrifice today for stability tomorrow" (both paraphrased). further, he suggested that humans as a species are really not designed to think more than a few years (or even just a single winter) in advance - making thinking 30 years, or the 100+ on which we could truly feel the impact of environmental change very very hard to pivot around.
i think these points/questions are dead on.... the worrisome part is that it isn't only human beings in a practical/immediate sense who have a hard time digesting these meta trends and inter generational issues. our institutions, capitalism, government, etc. are equally designed with at most a few years of forecasting in mind - not centuries. most disturbingly, our theory can't even account for this long term thinking. utilitarianism in the most general form can, but offers no real direction when stretched to that end - our man rawls, i believe, is completely up a creek without some sort of way to measure fairness, etc. in terms of not just a current population but future generations - at the other end of the spectrum guys like nozick (in the justice as acquisition sense) because it is impossible to balance the rights of others to acquire in the future vs. our rights to acquire now.
the world isn't a zero sum game, but there really are some zero sum aspects we are now hitting up against as a society. this indefinite mixture makes things very very complicated.
i personally think the only solution may be to dramatically change tastes. celebrities driving hybrids isn't enough - i think that the only solution may be some sort of modern cathedral which we can all stand behind, and which allows us to pleasurably optimize our own lives in the short run, while enabling and protecting future generations as a positive externality.