Wasting the Planet: What a Storied Doctrine of Property Brings to Bear on Environmental Law and Climate Change
40 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2019
Date Written: 2012
To many, sustainability is nothing more than another legally ineffectual buzz word manufactured by the modern environmental movement. However, such a narrow view of the concept ignores a tremendous amount of historical precedent and jurisprudence underlying it. Specifically, the doctrine of waste in Anglo-American property law has long been a vehicle for those with an interest in the future to restrict resource-depleting activities in the present, rendering it the manifestation of sustainability as a concrete legal obligation. It is through this doctrine, then, that the rich concept of sustainability as it applies to climate change policymaking can be best understood. I explore the early history and development of the doctrine of waste in England and the United States, as well as the philosophical discourse surrounding equitable obligations to future generations, to provide much-needed non-partisan legal and moral grounding for environmental policymaking.
Keywords: environmental law, waste doctrine, climate change, intergenerational equity
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