1.2.1-3: Thinking About Land Rights

Module 1, Section 2.1-3

Thinking About Land Rights

2.1 If you do not own enough of this planet to support yourself and you cannot support yourself without this planet, who is it who supports you? And do they support you..... or through their owning the land that supports you do they now own you, own your work, your space, your freedom to live as you choose?

  • If you own no land to support yourself, you must rent, hire or buy it from those that do, so that you may both live and make a living.
  • If you cannot use the planet to feed, clothe and provide for yourself then to stay alive, you must choose to either work for those who own your planet, to become a thief or a beggar, or to die.
  • This servitude has taken on many forms throughout history: slavery, serfdom, day-labour, employment, debt. The only variation being the share of the wealth produced left to the planet borrowers by the planet owners
  • This simple reality underlies much of today's poverty, inequality, lack of freedom, unemployment and powerlessness, experienced as the sheer struggle to get by that looms so large in so many peoples' lives
  • These latter day pharaohs, the planet owners, the richest 5% - allow the rest of us to pay day after day for the right to live on their planet. And as we make them richer, they buy yet more of the planet for themselves, and use their wealth and power to fight amongst themselves over what each possesses ~ though of course it's actually most of the rest of us who have to fight and die in their wars.

- BEarthright


2.2 In many parts of the world, the concentration of ownership and control of land is increasing. Even in countries with constituted democracies millions are being evicted, their lands grabbed out from under their feet. Democratic governance has failed to articulate and bring forth a clear and fair land rights ethic.

Land, that upon which we all stand, is the single most common characteristic of wealth worldwide. What the poor lack – land – the rich have in spades. In fact, land defines the wealthy to a far greater extent than cash. In the United Kingdon, there an estimated 420,000 millionaires, according to the tax authorities (Probate Office of HM Revenue and Customs, UK, 2005). Of at least 158,000 (37.6%) of these, their landholdings alone are enough to make them millionaires (UK Valuation Office). Of the remaining 222,000 millionaires, almost all have at least 40% of their wealth in the form of land assets (Merrill-Lynch-Cap Gemini World Wealth Report 2002). - Who Owns the World, Kevin Cahill, Mainstream Publishing, 2007, page 1


2.3 This failure of democracy is a primary reason that land tenure is contested all over Africa and elsewhere in developing countries. Women's rights are especially at risk, because land tenure in many societies are based on patrilineal systems in which property rights are held and transferred through men. The spread of HIV/Aids has made women's position still worse. In widowhood, they may be evicted from their land by their dead husband's kin.