The Myth: House & Land as Security

Have you been following the news of natural disasters across the globe? Extensive property damage has occurred from: flooding in Houston, India, Nepal and Bangladesh; hurricane force winds in Dominica and Puerto Rico; and major earthquakes in Mexico. Many people living in those communities have lost everything and are now homeless! What they have to come back to in the case of flooding is property contaminated with raw sewage and toxic chemicals that have been borne by the flooding. Where is their security?
And it doesn’t take a major natural disaster or war to test our vulnerability. Disease, death, divorce, and loss of a job can all impact our living situation. Yet, we continue to believe that owning property will provide us with security.
Owning is about possessing or having control over. It is a form of domination. If you think about that in terms of owning another person, you are repulsed by the thought of slavery, of owning another living being. And, yet, we think it is perfectly natural to own the earth, to treat it as a commodity and make whatever money we possibly can in our transactions with the land. Have we lost sight of the Earth as a living being?

I know that I have shared this quote before but, it really touches my heart:

We abuse the land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.                          

-Aldo Leopold

To treat land as a commodity creates a class of people who have access to land because of their affluence and a class of people who don’t have access. Property lines are drawn; fences and walls are built for protection. On a national level boarders are drawn. We engage in conflicts rather than work together for the benefit of all. And as Aldo Leopold says, we move into an abusive relationship, trying to get the most money we can for the natural resources that exist. Look at Houston where developers filled in and built on the swamp land and prairie land that was the natural water absorption area that helped to mitigate flooding. All for money!
Getting back to the question of security, I would say that true security comes from the quality of relationships we develop, both with other human beings and with the Earth itself. Notice that Leopold uses the word “community” to express himself. This is our task right now, both on the social level and the ecological level. Are you willing to work through your fear of vulnerability and open to what is possible when we create true community?

Richard Starling
Arizona Community Land Trust

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