Martin Adams is a new voice for the land, and a revivalist of the historical context for the way we think about land issues. His new book, Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World is scheduled for publication in March.
Many of us already sense on one level or another that capitalism creates inequality and also engenders the ecological destruction of our planet. What we don’t seem to understand is why: For example, why does capitalism lead to financial insecurity for many, even for those who, by all accounts, shouldn’t have to worry about money? And why exactly are we destroying our planet in our frantic conversion of nature into digits and little bits of paper we call money?
One of the main reasons capitalism is no longer working is because the commons—the gifts of nature—have been privatized. This privatization of nature is one of the root causes of economic recessions, ecological destruction, as well as social and cultural decline.
All of nature is community wealth, including—and especially—land. People give value to land through the goods and services they provide to their communities. For example, because people offer more goods and services in the city than in the countryside, urban land tens to be much more expensive than rural land. As communities become more attractive to live in, some property owners—but mostly the financial institutions that finance them—then extract this additional value, and this extraction is one of the root causes of wealth inequality, ecological destruction, and even economic recessions.