Thinking about what is possible even on rented property has led me to think about land ownership and what that really means. It is important to consider that even those of us who are lucky enough to own our own properties still have to remember that we are only ever really custodians of that land.
Like so many others, we have a mortgage that we are paying off. As human beings, we tend to focus on ownership. But rather than thinking about what is owned and what is owed, we should think more about the duties and responsibilities we have – both to the land itself, and to future generations. We only have 1/3 of an acre here – not much in the big scheme of things. But no matter how large or small a patch you are responsible for, every small decision can make a big difference.
When trying to live more sustainably, it is helpful to consider ourselves not as owners, but as custodians. We should think about how we can take care of the land, and leave it better than when we found it.
We have to remember that though we may inhabit a patch of our planet for a time, nature does not care about the paperwork. Legal ownership, when it comes right down to it, is not what really matters. The most important thing is the impact we have on our surroundings.
As human beings, we have an amazing capacity to change our environments and to control them. The key to managing land well is finding the techniques and practices that improve it for all its inhabitants (humans, wildlife and plants), now and in the future. And, of course, it is also about avoiding negative impact whenever we can.
Where I live, here in Scotland, land ownership is a major issue. With so much land in the hands of so few, legal land ownership can be a massive barrier to sustainable change. In my opinion, land reform is a crucial concern. And the duties and responsibilities of all those who make decisions about how land is used should be at the heart of that reform. If more land owners truly thought of themselves as custodians, sustainable change would be far easier to achieve.