We think of obligations that we have to people in the present as a rather straight forward concept. For example, one might say that a parent has an obligation to her child to provide that child a good education. Because the parent has such an obligation, she must perform certain actions like saving money for her child’s education or researching schools that she might send her child to. But obligations to people or things in the future are less clear. Did our hypothetical parent have obligations to perform those actions in the past before her child existed but after she knew that she was likely to have a child?
Does specificity of the outcome of an action change the nature of our obligation to perform that action? Everyday we have the option to try and adopt a child, run for political office, or start a charity. Do we have an obligation to do any of these things? Are we morally required to make a certain kind of future for a specific person or specific persons? If so what would those obligations entail, do I owe life to various potential children? Or do I owe clean rivers to potential people in my community generations from now? If I don’t have these obligations to the future why not, and what makes the consequences in the future different from the consequences in the present?