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This article suggests a normative framework which, if adopted and internalized by our political, economic, and social institutions, might enable them to serve as vehicles for ensuring that future generations will inherit their just share of our global heritage. Its thesis is that the human species holds the natural and cultural resources of the planet in trust for all generations of the human species. The article focuses on our duty towards the human species, for it is on this fiduciary duty that law and political institutions can be brought most readily to bear. This planetary trust obligates each generation to preserve the diversity of the resource base and to pass the planet to future generations in no worse condition than it receives it. Thus, the present generation serves both as a trustee for future generations and as a beneficiary of the trust. In fulfilling our role as planetary trustees, we can draw on the law of trusts, a body of distilled teachings concerning intergenerational cooperation and conflict, to help resolve the challenges confronting our global heritage.


Copyright 1984 by Ecology Law Quarterly. Reprinted from the Ecology Law Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 4, by permission of the Regents of the University of California.

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11 Ecology L.Q. 495-582 (1984)