The Paradox of the Future in Contemporary Energy Policy: A Human Rights Analysis (D. M. Smolin)


David. M. Smolin


human rights, energy policy, environmental damage, ecological damage, energy demand, energy technologies


As the world heads toward a projected 9 billion people by 2050, 2 there are fundamental questions about how to provide an adequate and sustainable standard of living for the world’s population. As a matter of human rights, the creation and provision of an adequate standard of living is fundamental. 3 As a practical matter, preparing to meet the projected needs of these future generations is one of the fundamental challenges of this generation and time.

Energy is a fundamental component of meeting present and future economic needs, both because it is a very significant economic sector, and also because virtually all economic activity is dependent on the availability of energy, in one form or another. The availability and price of energy therefore deeply impacts the entire economy, and hence is critical to both present and future economic challenges. There is no way to create an adequate standard of living for human beings, including food, water, sanitation, clothing, housing, health care, education, transportation, and cultural activities, without adequate and inexpensive sources of energy. 4

The question is whether there will be adequate sources of energy, available at a reasonable cost, to meet future demand. A closely related question is the extent of ecological and environmental damage that would be produced by the energy technologies used to meet this energy demand. Such damage is a matter of concern both for the sake of the environment and earth itself, and also due to negative effects of ecological and …


(2010) 40 Cumberland Law Rev. 135


The Paradox of the Future in Contemporary Energy Policy: A Human Rights Analysis