Intergenerational Equity and the Antarctic Treaty System: Continued Efforts to Prevent 'Mastery'

Yearbook of Polar Law, Vol. 3, 2011

37 Pages Posted: 18 Feb 2011

Date Written: February 15, 2011


Intergenerational equity has rarely been related to the management of Antarctica. This contribution discusses the question to what extent the principle of intergenerational equity has been implemented in the Antarctic Region through the instruments of the Antarctic Treaty system (ATS). A complicated question, not only because the ATS itself is comprehensive, but particularly because intergenerational equity is a complex principle that can be viewed from many angles. This contribution builds on Edith Brown-Weiss’ view that a balanced and fair relationship between generations of humankind depends in part on a responsible relationship between man and nature. On the basis of the rich literature on intergenerational equity and the types of human-nature relationships that have been distinguished by environmental philosophers, the theoretical part of this contribution develops three sub-questions for discussing the ATS. It is concluded that the Consultative Parties have made substantial efforts to implement intergenerational equity for the Antarctic Region, as far as the environmental component of this principle is concerned. The continuing efforts to prevent ‘mastery’ (the term in environmental philosophy for nature subordinated to humanity; see Section 3) and the comprehensive ecosystem approach of the ATS instruments safeguard to a large extent options for future generations to enjoy Antarctica’s environment and natural resources. However, a number of concerns is identified that might limit the ATS’ ability to prevent mastery. Furthermore, because an explicit policy on wilderness protection is lacking, the ATS does not safeguard the option for future generation to value and enjoy Antarctica as one of the last wilderness regions of the earth. This contribution ends with a glimpse into the future: to ensure intergenerational equity in Antarctic management, the ATS must continue and strengthen its efforts to prevent mastery in the Antarctic Region. The best way to ensure this is to prevent ‘no rule’-situations. Such efforts are also in the ATS’ self-interest: ensuring intergenerational equity is important for the stability of the ATS itself as mastery will destroy the balance of interests.

Keywords: Intergenerational equity, fairness, future generations, mankind, mastery, stewardship, Antarctic, nature conservation law, humankind, human-nature relationships, precautionary principle, exploitation, sustainability, wilderness, environmental philosophy, claim, property, ownership

JEL Classification: K32, K33, K11, N50, N57, Q20, Q24, Q25, Q26, Q28, Q30, Q32, Q, 38, Q41, Q48, B10, B12, B13, D23

Suggested Citation

Bastmeijer, Kees, Intergenerational Equity and the Antarctic Treaty System: Continued Efforts to Prevent 'Mastery' (February 15, 2011). Yearbook of Polar Law, Vol. 3, 2011 , Available at SSRN:

Kees Bastmeijer (Contact Author)

Tilburg University ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Tilburg, 5000 LE


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