Within political and bureaucratic processes, nobody really speaks for future generations. In the area of the environment, there may be some voters, politicians, environmental non-governmental organizations (eNGOs), and bureaucrats who are concerned about the effects of current policies and behaviours on future generations. What is lacking is an organized mechanism through which those concerns can be made influential. At present, near-term concerns have an overwhelming grip on political influence. This is because of election cycles, as well as the willingness of almost everybody to delay pain and difficult decisions.
The question, then, is whether any political or bureaucratic mechanism could help shift the balance of influence towards those who are not yet here to express their preferences. Most depressingly, we could conclude that only extreme prosperity puts people in a position where they are willing to make small sacrifices for the benefit of future others. Arguably, Norway’s stabilization fund is an example of this. Most optimistically, it could be argued that all that is necessary is to provide clear information on the future consequences of present actions, and people will make changes voluntarily. Between those views is a perspective that focuses on building institutions that think for the long term. Doing so is certainly challenging, since such organizations must be shielded from year-to-year demands in order to function. That challenge is made even more acute by the necessity that, if any such organization is to be effective, some organization that currently exists and operates will need to cede some power to the new body.