Restoring Communities: Revisiting the Concept of Land Ownership

Current models of land ownership have widespread implications for the ecological and economic health of communities. The concept of leasehold ownership is a promising adjustment to property rights philosophy, aiming to keep wealth and prosperity from leaving the communities in which they originate.


| March 2015



Farmland and Hay Bales

Private land ownership might be here to stay, but can the monetary value of land be shared with the surrounding community? Reversing a system that incentivizes the depletion of local resources could bring about a more prosperous and equitable future.

Photo by Fotolia/gimsan

Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World, (North Atlantic Books, 2015) by Martin Adams, examines the economic act of land ownership—investigating the perils that come with the commoditization of nature and proposing a model of land use rights that replenishes community resources. The following excerpt is from Chapter 8, “Restoring Communities.”

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A proper community is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members—among them the need to need one another. The answer to the present alignment of political power with wealth is the restoration of the identity of community and economy.

—Wendell Berry

Every being on this planet is imbued with consciousness simply by virtue of their existence. Each being has an innate nobility, a dignity that can’t be tarnished, though the suffering of our human experience often blinds us to this reality. We’re all intimately connected to all that is, because we’re a part of life. When we seek to own a part of nature, we usually do so because we see ourselves as separate from nature. Yet we are deeply interconnected to one another and the Earth. And since every human being needs land in order to simply exist, doesn’t it follow that the value that land freely offers to all human beings would best be freely shared with all?

Aside from the ethical implications that arise when we don’t share the value of land with one another, we’ll continue to experience a host of challenging issues as long as the value of land remains privatized. Do we wish to solve poverty, reverse the process of cultural degeneration, and halt the cancerous destruction of nature? Then we’re wise to begin to share the gifts of nature with one another.