Campaigning for realistic land reform
Though it is undoubtedly a more long-term strategy, I do feel that it is imperative that the people of Britain address the fact that so much land is owned by so few. The Royal Family is a perfect example – they own 677,000 acres of land in Britain. The Ministry of Defence own 750,000 acres. Insurance companies, 500,000 acres. Whilst a small percentage of this (figures vary) is already used for food growing, the New Local Government Network argue that our government should create innovative ways to free up the land they leave unused, so that it can be made use of by people who simply want an opportunity to grow their own food, a very basic need for many people, perhaps even a necessity for some in the current economic climate. The NLGN have suggested three routes to doing this (in sequence):
• To appeal to land owners’ altruistic side. NLGN’s director and former MP Chris Shipley believes that Prince Charles, as “a vocal advocate for farming and the countryside … will be supportive of the idea” of giving over his unused land to communities and allotment organisations for the production of local organic food. Given historical evidence, I must admit I do not share his optimism but I would be very happy to be wrong. If Prince Charles isn’t, I feel he should ease off on the rhetoric regarding his commitment to sustainable farming (I’m not suggesting for a moment that the Duchy is supportive of non-monetary economy, but the ideas are interlinked in many respects) and admit that he isn’t prepared to put his assets where his mouth is.
• For the Government to offer tax incentives for landowners to allow allotments to be built on unused sections of their property.
• Should a “voluntary system not work, the Government should consider a Large Private Estates Commission which could have the power to temporarily transfer unused plots of private land to the local community for agricultural use”(128) if “the landowner refuses to countenance the redevelopment of vacant land.”(129) This is obviously a controversial point, but I believe that within an economic system where we import the majority of our food when much of our own land simultaneously lies well below the optimum level for sustain-ability and wildlife, something drastic needs to be done if those who own and control the land haven’t got the decency or motivation to do it themselves.
Given how essential land reform is to our future sustainability aims and to those of us who desire nothing more than to not be forced into the monetary and wage economy, we should all get behind proposed reforms such as this. I’d go much further to say that we must stop merely asking for such reforms from those we elect into government, and instead demand them.
If ecological collapse isn’t enough of a motivating factor to make these demands, what will be?