Future Generations, Natural Resources, and Property Rights

Ethics and the Environment 3 (2):119 - 130 (1998)
Abstract
In an important recent article, "Contemporary Property Rights, Lockean Provisos, and the Interests of Future Generations, "Clark Wolf argues that sometimes the interests of future generations should take precedence over the claims of current property rights holders. Wolfs arguments concentrate on the genesis and nature of defensible property rights in various natural resources, and on the conditions under which morally unacceptable harm is caused to others. In this paper I explore two central sets of issues. First, I investigate how the argument holds up when labor is involved in discovering, developing, or preparing natural resources for appropriation. I consider some persuasive reasons why one might think Wolfs arguments lose force in such cases. I also indicate how to accommodate these concerns without diminishing the force of Wolf s main arguments. Second, I show how either the examples Wolf uses do not support the conclusion he is pressing, or the argument has extremely far-reaching implications. I argue that either of these conclusions is problematic for Wolfs argument as thus far developed.
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