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This article considers whether any interpretation of the idea of equal claims to the natural world can resolve the Canyon Dilemma (i.e. can justify protecting the Grand Canyon but not a small canyon from mining by a poor generation). It first considers and ultimately rejects the idea of subjecting natural resource rights to an intergenerational equal division. It then demonstrates that a pluralist theory of environmental justice committed to both respect for the separateness of persons and to the collective good can justify a type of intergenerational non-absolute equal division of natural resource rights that can navigate the Canyon Dilemma.
This article introduces an intuitive conservation dilemma called the Canyon Dilemma: Is it possible to condemn the mining of the Grand Canyon, even by a poor generation, while also permitting this generation’s mining of an unremarkable small canyon? It then argues that not one of several prominent theories of environmental justice, including various forms of egalitarianism, welfarism, deep-ecological theories, communitarianism and free-market environmentalism, can navigate this dilemma. The article concludes by highlighting the dilemma-navigating potential of the equal-claims idea – the idea that the natural world is something to which every human being, present and future, has an equal, substantive claim.
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