2015 Earth Sharing Inspired
Land Conference in the UK
In the spring of 2015, a conference was organized around the concept of land ownership in the United Kingdom. It was formed because of the growing concern over housing, climate change, food, and inequality. The conference was inspired by Earth Sharing’s 2014 conference in San Francisco and sprung from the understanding that land use rights are pivotal to all of these issues. Roughly 130 people gathered at the Totnes Civic Hall. Tal Leshem and Julian Pratt, among others, called for a reformation of the current system of land ownership.
The question at the center of the proceedings was, “How can we grow a proper relationship between people and place?” The event included a film presentation and culminated in a conference report. People met in groups to discuss the things that they thought were important, mirroring the San Francisco event’s unconference, i.e., attendee driven, format. There were multiple focuses, including:
Land-Lending: This program connected volunteers wishing to work local unused land with landowners wanting to see their land put to more efficient use.
Land Ownership Mapping: A dedicated group worked to calculate the feasibility of making available an online land ownership map of all of the unregistered land in England, which makes up almost a third of the England’s total land area.
Community Land Trusts: This group discussed how people in need of housing in Devon are supported by The Land Society and how the Society worked with these people to build affordable homes for themselves.
Location Fees: This group discussed what is also known as Land Value Taxation. A group called the Henry George Society of Devon provided speakers to groups and still meets regularly.
Low-Impact Permaculture Communities: Also discussed was how rural regeneration is supported by the Ecological Land Co-op. This was accomplished by providing sites for forestry, farming, and other rural enterprises for ecological development.
Conference attendees came away inspired and energized, having made new contacts with interests that intersect with their own. The ultimate results might be hard to measure concretely, but some groups have already initiated and proposed actions toward creating a world where land is made accessible to all:
Songs about the land: One group organised well-attended meetings in Exeter and Totnes to share songs about the land and to listen to Robin Grey’s history of UK land rights and protest in folk song and story, 3 Acres and a Cow
Land Ownership Mapping: Another group identified the need for a publicly accessible online map of the ownership of all land in the UK and discovered that there is already work being done to construct one for registered land. They are taking forward a complementary ‘bottom-up’ approach to unregistered land (nearly a third of the land area of England and Wales) by which local communities will construct online maps of this unregistered land.
Musicians’ Session: This would include the sharing of land-related music.
Community Gardens: The group working on this project is looking to provide and maintain gardens in various communities.
Children in Common Spaces: They promote their belief that of the fact that young people and children should have a right to be in common spaces.
A Land Gathering Follow Up Event in 2016: The theme of this event will be to promote Earth Sharing and the support of local youth. The event will include arts, crafts, music, food, games, and land rights workshops.
To learn more about the conference, see the report.