This is a repost from Casaubon’s Book, a blog I perennially return to for inspiration and deep analysis of the nitty gritty reality of living at Peak Civ. She offers an analysis of the hard corner our society has backed itself into It encoI really like this post for its encouraging words of DIY, just Do It, there is support in your community, you must only find itur, using the right search light, of course.
Sharon November 5th, 2009
I think the question of land access may end up being the central political issue of the coming century. In both the rich world and the poor world, we’ve systematically deprived people of easy access to land. We have driven up the price of land in the rich world by encouraging sprawl, and thus forced out agrarian populations that previous fed cities. We have pushed people into cities in the name of globalization and industrialization, and claimed their land for speculation. The system is no longer working very well – there are now a billion hungry people, and the bust cycle is upon us – but land access remains constrained. The poor sent to cities who can find no jobs can’t go home again in many cases. The moderate income people who need land most to sustain their families no longer have access to the credit necessary since prices were artificially raised.
As time goes on and energy and resources are more constrained, the anger of people who cannot access land against those who can is likely to be an issue – it always has been through human history. We have pretended over the decades that land was no longer wealth, that there could be such a thing as an information economy, but we are still caught in the old material economy, where the earth and its resources are the root source of our wealth – and they are increasingly controlled by fewer and fewer people, who care little about the future. This makes those without access angry indeed.
But as yet, most people at least in the rich world, do not see these issues as political – whether you can afford to buy a small house with enough dirt under it to feed your family regardless of the state of the economy is deemed to be a purely personal question.
So we are brought to the question – how do you grow food if you don’t own land, or don’t own enough land? How do we get access to land if we are poor, or if prices are out of our range? I meet people by the dozens and hundreds who want to own land, who are saving for a day that may or may not come – and it is good that they are. But not owning land is not, for most of us, the end of the story – but the beginning. If you want to grow and don’t own, there are places to begin.
Whatever you do, remember that allies are the key to success – you can do many of these things alone, but you don’t have to. Chances are that if you care about the beauty and food security of your neighborhood, at least a few other people do too. If you’d like a garden, a few other people may never have thought about it, but would be glad to see one and would like to help. If you are struggling with landlessness, look around you and see who else needs access to land – poor college students, immigrants, the working poor – all people who may well want to grow, even need to, but can’t do it by owning land. Seek allies among the powerful – sometimes they don’t care, but surprisingly often, they get it – they care about food security, they just haven’t had someone pushing them to put it on the priority list. It may not be as hard as you think to change the zoning laws, to get that land reallocated, to resist development, to start an easement program, etc… Civic engagement counts.