- Man has achieved in last decades the capacity of modifying the environment and using natural resources in such a way that endangers not only people living today, but the people of tomorrow. Almost all the countries that compromise many natural resources are the developed ones with democratically elected governments. That gives, at least, the people of today a chance to defend their rights for a better environment but, ¿what about future generations?
In the play of democracy the government hast the power and rules, and the opposition wants that same power to rule, differently, of course. Parties promoting a moderation in consumption and big changes have little chance of gaining the power in today`s society of abundance. People’s tendency is generally to want more, not less. On the other hand, people with strong sensitivity to the environment or sufficiently afraid of actual environmental threats are still a minority. Therefore, parties aiming to rule under ecologically sound principles will still be a minority for long time or, at least, till humankind gets really scarce by drastic environmental catastrophes. There is also some fear against eco-fascism
Most people vote what they want for themselves on an egoistic level, sometimes considering their “neighbors” but, almost never thinking of the fate of those who are not even born. Moreover, mass media and oversaturation of human calamities have eroded people’s sensibility. That is well known by politicians. They owe their voters. If they promote a policy of reductions, restrictions and removal or resources for the benefit of “somebody else” in the future, they will have difficulty keeping their political seats.
Few parties have internalized their electoral promises regarding the environment. Economic inertia and cost of losing voters when the captivating promise becomes a cruel truth, favors acceptance of a pragmatic moral, and they forget.
So, if the environmental component in major political programs tends to be cornered by inertia of economic factors, and the global environmental programs are still a long ways from being adopted because of little maturity in Biosphere management, what chances have future generations?
We have to deal and cope with our own decisions. They may come from the majority or, at the world level, most probably from a few industrialized countries. That is a matter of international solidarity and generalized responsibility regarding the Biosphere, already discussed in other places. My point here is to consider the trans-generational moral which is heartily needed an which should be present at all instances of political decision, from the town hall to international for a.
What if we would have members of town halls, regional governments or parliaments representing and defending only the rights of people of future generations? What if we would have at least one. They would have additional possibilities to achieve long-term environmental goals:
- They do not seek the power in so far they do not belong to a party who wants to govern.
- Their objective is to mould and buffer the exercise of power by whoever forms the government. Many times it is not a matter of doing things, but of doing them differently.
- Their only force is that of a trans-generational moral and a rational environmentalism.
- They do not owe today’s voters in so far as they have not promised them anything, but just to defend the right to a dignified and unspoiled environment for generations to come.
- Other parties would not see them as opponents to fight, but rather as another view to consider and a new enlightened moral to follow if they so choose.
- They may act as valuable moderators in strong controversies between parties as they represent a neutral interest, that of the future generations who belong to everybody.
- They should try to tell only the “whats” and avoid the “hows”. “Hows” belong to the governing party.
They should always keep independent voices and never aggregate as a party. Their credibility is bound to their “no party” condition.
Some institutions and countries with only major party representations may have technical difficulties accepting such independent members in their structure. It may be worth considering their structure and perhaps, opening the door by establishing minimum of votes necessary to gain entrance.
Finally, the crucial question: who votes for the “representatives” of people who are not yet born? If they are confident, I am convinced that elderly people would vote for them, grandfathers, grandmothers and conscious parents. Such a candidate could collect also the “positive” vote of indecision, of people who doubt or who do not find a satisfying party. It may become a kind of neutral vote.
The cause of environment hast not many chances today. The proposed approach is limited, of course, but worth trying. A hidden moral is a dead moral. Intellectuals and scientist prepared and concerned with long-term world problems should accept this challenge.
Text presented at the 3rd International Conference on Environmental Future.
(Edinburgh, 25-26th September 1987)