Falling down the Land Debate Rabbit Hole

Once you find out about the way land is controlled you can’t believe there is so little debate about it. Land for what? is a chance to get more people engaged, says Tom Kenny.

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Until a few years ago I didn’t really think about land much. Of course I was concerned about the housing crisis, the damage being done to the environment by industrial land management, gentrification, inequality and so on. But we rarely talk how these issues are all dependent on the way we use and govern land as a society.

When I did get interested, I quickly bounded down the rabbit hole. The more I learned, the more incredulous I got that the status quo is so rarely challenged, or even discussed. You keep having to pinch yourself….

“Let me get this straight – we pay landowners for owning land, sometimes even for managing it badly and destroying environmental assets!?”

“Wait a second, you’re saying that one third of our land is still in the hands of the aristocracy!?”

“So landowners make huge untaxed windfall gains when there is public investment in infrastructure near them? That doesn’t sound right…”

And when you get into it, It turns out a lot of people have been through this journey. We’ve had loads of interest since we started to talk about Land for What?. Interest from other people who have learned about the more absurd parts of the status quo, and are hungry to challenge it.

Yet it is still far from being a mainstream issue. Even where people are firmly entrenched in land-based struggles like housing activism they may not consider the importance of land to these struggles. Whilst it’s easy to fall down the land debate rabbit hole, most people seem not to notice it at all.

In the past, some discussions about ‘land reform’ have been alienating to outsiders (even the term is a turn-off for some). I think some people can get a bit lost down the rabbit hole, fixating on one of the particular paths. Planning policy. Land value taxation. Community Land Trusts. Yes, these things are important, but debates over their intricacies are rarely exciting for newcomers. Moreover, the core issues are much more basic, and should resound with most people in our society.

For me, Land for What? is about pulling many more people down the rabbit hole. It’s about spreading information about the nature of the problem, always relating it to the things people care about, and exploring common ground for solutions. It’s about inspiring other people to continue these discussions in their own communities.

When ideas about Land for What? were first gestating, some of us attended a talk by Scottish land rights campaigner (and now MSP) Andy Wightman. He said that a key step in the land reform debate in Scotland was when people developed ‘land literacy’, and the land debate was added to the list of topics people might discuss in the pub. Sounds like a good goal to me.

Tom is from Shared Assets, a think and do tank that supports people managing land for the common good. Follow @tomekenny and @shared_assets on Twitter.

Territories of Life – a video toolkit for indigenous communities facing land grabs

Territories of Life is a video toolkit with a purpose. It’s aim is to bring stories of resistance, resilience and hope to indigenous communities on the frontline of the global rush for land.

We really hope that Land For What? will be able to put together something similar for communities in the UK facing land grabs and clearances by developers and corporations. For example communities fighting against fracking and social housing under threat of being cleared.

Produced by LifeMosaic, a non-profit based in Scotland, the Territories of Life toolkit consists of ten stories that were filmed in communities across Indonesia, Philippines, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Paraguay, Tanzania and Cameroon.

http://www.lifemosaic.net/eng/tol/

Territories of Life Introduction (HD) from LifeMosaic on Vimeo.

Quakers interest in Housing and Inequality

Dear Friends

Quakers have an interest in Housing and Inequality which led us to run a conference on 20th February this year, a little while before the recent Housing Act.

If you’re interested in what went on, you can have a look at the open Facebook Group Quakers and Housing Inequality.

One of the outcomes following our conference was a Housing Toolkit, a resource document for use by Quaker groups and individuals. It might interest some of you, so I’ve uploaded a copy to this site here – Quaker Housing Toolkit Part 1

Fred

The great myth of urban Britain

This BBC article has some useful facts and figures from recent comprehensive national studies about how much of the country is built on.

A surprisingly low figure which could be used to challenge the idea that we don’t have enough space in this country to house everyone adequately.

If I have read the article right, it states that 80% of us live on 2% of the land and that only 20% of ‘urban’ land is actually built on!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18623096

The Land Conference 2015, Totnes

On 21st March 2015 130 people attended a one-day conference in Totnes to explore ‘How can we grow a proper relationship between people and place?’

They made a seven minute film and conference report, which provides links to audio recordings of the presentations that were given.

The speakers (with links to videos of their talks) were:

Tal Leshem                    Who does the land REALLY belong to: a moral perspective

Jonty Williams               Economics for taking care of the Earth

Julian Pratt                     Stewardship – an alternative to owning the Earth

Simon Fairlie                  Radical approaches to accessing land

Jyoti Fernandez              Access to land –an international perspective

Toni Spencer (Part 1)     Poems for and from the Devon Land Conference

Toni Spencer (Part 2)