Property Law for the Anthropocene Era

28 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2017 Last revised: 6 May 2017

See all articles by John G. Sprankling

John G. Sprankling

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law

Date Written: February 1, 2017


The most important challenge facing American property law today is how to adapt to the Anthropocene era. In 2016, scientists officially acknowledged that we have entered this new geological period, which is characterized by the reality that human activity ― not nature ― is now the dominant force transforming the physical world. In this period of rapid and unprecedented global change, our traditional rigid and absolutist approach to property rights is increasingly obsolete. This Article is the first comprehensive analysis of how property law should respond to the Anthropocene challenge. It demonstrates the need to transition from a property law system based on stability to a more dynamic system that accommodates large-scale change. We must develop a new vision of ownership in which property rights are more flexible and less categorical than in the past, and implement this transition in a manner that does not violate the Takings Clause. The Article proposes four overarching principles to guide the evolution of our property law system in the coming decades.

Keywords: Anthropocene, Property, Property Law, Land Use, Environment, Environmental Law, Property Rights, Ownership, Takings Clause, Fifth Amendment, Climate Change

Suggested Citation

Sprankling, John G., Property Law for the Anthropocene Era (February 1, 2017). Arizona Law Review, Forthcoming, Pacific McGeorge School of Law Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

John G. Sprankling (Contact Author)

University of the Pacific - McGeorge School of Law ( email )

3200 Fifth Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95817
United States

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