New think tank proposes ‘super-jury’ to protect future generations

Green House wants a random panel of people to have the power to veto legislation that could negatively affect future generations

A progressive new think tank has proposed the idea of a jury chosen randomly from the general public who would be given powers to veto or force a review of any law that could have negative effects on society in the future.

Green House, set up by a group of environmentalists and writers, launched a document called The Guardians for Future Generations at an event in the House of Commons on 10 January. The launch was hosted by the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas MP, and addressed by Liberal Democrat minister Norman Baker and Labour MP Jon Cruddas.

The think tank, led by Rupert Read, a philosopher at the University of East Anglia, wants to see a ‘super-jury’ made up of ‘Guardians of the Future’, who would sit above existing law-making bodies and have two core powers: to veto legislation that threatens the basic needs and interests of future citizens, and the power to force a review, following public petition, of any existing legislation that threatens the interests of future citizens.

The jury would also be able to initiate potential new laws to preserve the needs and interests of future generations.

“It is a very radical idea but many great ideas in history were once seen as outlandish,” Rupert Read said to the Guardian. He said that people saw the abolition of slavery as ‘ludicrous’ for generations, but that “in effect…we are at risk of enslaving future people by condemning them to a future far worse than now. They will have to work far harder to live and that is, in effect, slavery.”

In 2008, Hungary appointed an Ombudsman for Future Generations. Addressing the event on the 10 January by letter, the Ombudsman, Sándor Fülöp, highlighted a growing world movement for protecting future generations. He cited examples such as the New Zealand environmental parliamentary commissioner, the Israeli and the Finnish parliamentary commissions for future generations, Austrian and Canadian environmental ombudspersons, and similar organisations planned in Wales and Malta.

Sándor Fülöp also called for a global “high representative for future generations” within the United Nations.

The overall aim of Green House is to get people talking about the future of society and the planet, without the presumption that economic growth is good.