Dr. Allan Thompson

Affiliation and Title: Associate Professor of Philosophy

Oregon State University, Corvallis OR

Title of Presentation: A Future They Don't Deserve


Every day brings another credible scientific report about terrible human impacts on the environment. Climate change grabs the headlines, but a multitude of anthropogenic drivers are causing dangerous environmental alternation across a variety of biophysical dimensions at local, regional, and global scales. But, by and large, most people carry on as if nothing is happening. The environmental consequences of our current global economy will include the global loss of biodiversity, mass species extinctions, land degradation, and ecosystem collapse. Sea levels will rise and extreme weather events, including convective storms, heatwaves, and droughts, will become more frequent and intense. While we enjoy the benefits of today’s capitalist and consumer economy, the costs will fall largely on future generations of human beings. Intuitively, this seems morally wrong.


I will not venture too deeply into complicated philosophical problems about how our actions, as individuals or collectives, could be best understood to morally wrong future generations. Instead, I will simply assume that members of the present generation - we - are acting wrongly (or failing to act rightly) in terms of behaviors, norms, and policies that drive, allow, or enable the progression of global environmental problems. The outcome of our moral failure will significantly affect the conditions of life for future generations of human beings. In this paper I consider how we should think about what it would be to act well, given this moral failure. I take it we have morally failed and explore answers to questions about what we should do now.



Allen Thompson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Environmental Philosophy at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon. His research concerns broadening our conception of environmental virtue and moral responsibility as a part of understanding human excellence in adapting to the Anthropocene.  Thompson is President of the International Society of Environmental Ethics, a past Fellow at the Rachel Carson Center (Munich, Germany), and the OSU The Center for the Humanities, and is writing a book on the ethics of novel ecosystems (Routledge, under contract). Additionally, he co-edited The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Ethics (OUP 2017) and Ethical Adaptation to Climate Change (MIT 2012). Thompson also serves as book review editor for the journal Environmental Ethics and was a guest on the nationally-syndicated NPR program, Philosophy Talk, discussing climate ethics. His web page can be found at <http://people.oregonstate.edu/~thompsoa>