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UBC Theses and Dissertations

On the acceptance of intergenerational legacies : a comparison of Canada and Japan Adachi, Kyoko


Justice negotiations for climate change, as with other multi-generational issues, have been challenging. Parties in these justice negotiations diverge on how to treat unequally distributed legacies, the product of historical actions. Two issues often emerge: 1) how to balance the positive and negative outcomes associated with the legacies, and 2) how to differentiate between actions undertaken with known outcomes vs. unintended outcomes. Although scarce, literature hints that cultural differences exist in the norms of obligation towards positive and negative consequences, and of valuing the intention when judging an action. Exploring these differences is crucial to understanding the underlying causes of disagreements in historical justice negotiations. We conducted a survey in Canada and Japan using an analogy of inheritance and debt. Specifically, we collected data on whether and on what conditions Canadians and Japanese 1) accept inheritance, 2) change their likelihood of inheritance acceptance after learning about means of wealth accumulation, 3) accept debt, 4) change their mind about inheritance acceptance after learning about debt, and 5) settle debt. Our statistical analyses yield several findings. First, Canadians are more likely to accept inheritance than Japanese, and care less about positive and negative externalities. Second, intent does not matter. Third, Japanese are more likely than Canadians to decline inheritance when debts are attached. Fourth, Japanese are more likely to settle greater amount of debt than Canadians regardless of debt type. In addition, our analysis also demonstrated that people are more likely to settle a greater fraction of debt if they are women and non-Judeo-Christian. Finally, participants in our study were less likely to settle debt to environmental causes, compared to the debt to employee, bank, or tax. The findings point to significant differences in the way groups view consequences and obligations in justice negotiations. For negotiations to be successful, countries must come to a shared understanding of intergenerational responsibilities. We hope that this study raises the need for further research and informs the international community of the need of examining and addressing the differences in the perceptions of those charged with dealing with climate justice and similar negotiations.

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