Public Trust Doctrine /pəblik trəst däktrən/ – Compound Noun: The principle that the government has a fiduciary responsibility to maintain certain resources for the public’s reasonable use.
The public trust doctrine holds that governments can and must protect vital resources for the whole of the public. The doctrine can be traced back to ancient Roman times, when the emperor Justinian decreed that the sea, and air were a common good, and that the seashore must be open to all. These rights were brought forward to England, and to the United States common law as well. The public has, by this doctrine, an inalienable right to access to the seashores, and to free access of navigation.
More recently, environmental activists have been employing the doctrine to ask their governments to do more to protect their citizens against climate change. They reason that, as we share this good, green earth together, we also share a responsibility to preserve it for those who follow us. Perhaps they have a point: when people pollute, deforest, or otherwise cause damage, they are in effect stealing from future generations. Governments step in and act against other forms of theft, so why not control theft of reasources considered a “public good,” as well?
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WebDefs – simple definitions of key terms relating to ministry and healing arts – are a regular feature on this website, offered (where applicable) in conjunction with select key scriptural passages and analysis, WebDefs can be a useful starting place for exploring a topic of interest.