future generations


Future generations are the
generation A generation is "all of the people born and living Living or The Living may refer to: Common meanings *Life, a condition that distinguishes organisms from inorganic objects and dead organisms ** extant taxon, Living species, one that is not ex ...

s of people to come in the
future The future is the time after the past and present. Its arrival is considered inevitable due to the existence of time and the laws of physics. Due to the apparent nature of reality and the unavoidability of the future, everything that currently ...

, after the currently living generations of humans. The future generation is contrasted with current and past generations, and evoked in order to create thinking about
intergenerational equity Intergenerational equity in economic, psychological, and sociological contexts, is the concept or idea of fairness or justice Justice, one of the four cardinal virtues, by Vitruvio Alberi, 1589–1590. Fresco, corner of the vault, studiolo of ...
. The moral patienthood of future generations has been argued for extensively among philosophers, and is thought of as an important, neglected cause by the effective altruism community. The term is often used in describing the conservation or preservation of
cultural heritage Cultural heritage is the legacy of tangible and intangible heritage assetA heritage asset is an item that has value because of its contribution to a nation’s society, knowledge and/or culture. They are usually physical assets, but some countries ...
natural heritage.
natural heritage.
The sustainability and climate action movements have adopted the concept as a tool for enshrining principles of long-term thinking into law. The concept is often connected to indigenous thinking as a principle for ecological action, such as the seven generation concept attributed to Iroquois tradition.


The term refers to the impact which the currently living generation has on the world which future generations will live in, the world they will inherit from humans living today. This concept is referred to in the most widely quoted definition of
sustainability Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth's biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. For many, sustainability is d ...

as a part of the concept
sustainable development Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services Social forestry in India, Social ...

sustainable development
, is that of the
Brundtland CommissionFormerly known as the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), the mission of the Brundtland Commission is to unite countries to pursue sustainable development Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human d ...
of the
United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and international security, security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, and be a centre for har ...

United Nations
on March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The use of future generations in international law is in part recognized by the
Charter of the United Nations The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) is the foundational treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public internation ...
which focuses on preventing the "scourge of war" on future generations.

UNESCO declaration


Most capitalist approaches assume future generations will have increased prosperity. However, these assumptions do not bear out -- most economic decisions are made with short term benefits in mind.

Legal rights of future generations

Most implementations of future generations focus on enshrining the rights and needs of future generations in law, in order to represent those unable to voice their needs. Several countries have tried enshrining obligations to future generations in law. In
Wales Wales ( cy, Cymru ) is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an individual's birth, residence or citizenship. A country may be an independent sovereign ...

, this moral obligation is encoded as a legal duty in the
Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 (anaw 2) ( cy, Deddf Llesiant Cenedlaethau'r Dyfodol (Cymru) 2015) was an Act of the National Assembly for Wales that was given royal assent on 29 April 2015; it came into force in April 2016. I ...
and in the role of the Future Generations Commissioner. The first commissioner
Sophie Howe Sophie Howe is the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, appointed in 2016. She had previously been a local councillor and worked as a special political advisor and deputy police and crime commissioner. Career Howe was elected as a local c ...
modeled the role, proposing a number of new policies designed for future-thinking policy in Wales, including a 2020 ''Manifesto for the Future''. Similarly in Hungary the office of the Hungarian Parliamentary Commissioner for Future Generations was established in 2008.

Climate litigation

The rights of future generations are increasingly being protected in legal precedents as part of the global trends in Climate change litigation, climate litigation. Future generations were the defendant in the critical defendants in a 2018 case "Future Generations v. Ministry of the Environment and Others" in Colombia which protected the Amazon rainforest basin for future generations.

In popular culture

The rights of future generations were the inspiration for the principle plot device in Kim Stanley Robinson's ''The Ministry for the Future.''

See also

* All-Party Parliamentary Group for Future Generations *Generationism, Foundation for the Rights of Future Generations * Think of the children


{{Generation Cultural generations Demographics