It’s a strange request to ‘take back our land’. But wherever you live, it’s important to know how to do it. Because often campaigning against threats to wildlife and the planet, does no good, when you find that a tiny percentage of people, own most of the land. Read up on who has (what) powers over us.
According to journalist Kevin Cahill, around 25,000 people own half of all rural land in England (less than 1% of the population). Yet we need nature to be free to all. This is not some inverted snobbery. If someone has a vast estate, so be it. But to own this much land when millions of people can’t even access a local park, is policy gone mad.
Higher income groups always have access to nature at beach houses, lake cabins, mountain chalets, on vacations – or in urban settings at golf courses or large gardens. Parks allow the rest of society that contact as well. Enrique Peñalosa
Who Owns England? is a super book looking at who owns the country we live in. All the focus on economic growth and waste and agro-business stems mostly from money owned by the few. If we want a world where nature trumps profit, it pays to find out who owns our land and power, and how to take it back.
An inspiring manifesto to open up our countryside, this book focuses on a few of England’s elite that own most of the land, though it could apply to most western countries. A few people owning most of the land translates into political decisions like allowing pheasant shoots on land that causes floods for the rest of the population. No matter whether you are a monarchist or republican, it’s interesting to learn that the late Queen (and presumably now King Charles) presently own around 6.6 billion acres of land worldwide. How can that be right and fair?
Now with digital mapping and the Freedom of Information Act, Guy Shrubsole trespasses through tightly-guarded country estates, ecologically ravaged grouser moors and empty Mayfair mansions, to create the most clear map of land ownership in England, that has ever been made public. Melding history and politics, he vividly demonstrates how taking control of land ownership is key to tackling everything from housing crisis to climate change, to halting the erosion of democracy.
The book ends with a positive 10-point plan on how we can ensure our land can be made to work productively and healthily for everyone. This includes preventing landowners from hoarding land and leaving empty property, and closing loopholes around inheritance tax. He also wants everyone to be able to have an allotment! Presently England has 10 times more golfing land than land to grow food.
Author Guy Shrubsole is a writer and former policy and campaigns coordinator at Rewilding Britain. His research found that despite the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, this only gives the public access to 8% of land and 3% of rivers in England.
In a similar vain, also read Real England: The Battle Against the Bland. This is a very interesting book by writer Paul Kingsnorth, who 10 years ago travelled across the country, writing a chapter on each aspect in danger of falling to corporate England: orchards, pubs, canals etc. He meets those who are at the sharp end of trying to save indie shops and pubs, and it’s a real rallying call to give power to those who are being crushed by the big supermarkets and capitalist politics:
I have always associated England with small, secret things. And Britain with big, bombastic ones. England is the still pool under the willows, where nobody will find you all day. And the only sound is the fish jumping in the dappled light. Today, the real England feels like 50 million people driving around a motorway forever. The march of the shopping malls, green-belt housing estates and pointy glass skyscrapers continues apace; new airports, new motorways and roads and high-speed rail lines ad infinitum. All in the name of growth. Global capitalism is eating the soul of the nation. What will be left after it has digested its meal? Paul Kingsnorth