‘Green Thinkers’ next read is ‘Who Owns England?‘ by Guy Shrubsole on 29th October 2020 (17:00 – 18:30 UK time, by Video Conference).
The question posed by this book is of the utmost relevance. I started thinking about land ownership as suitability issue when reading ‘Doughnut Economics’ by Kate Raworth. She writes that from the time of enclosure “the new land-owning aristocracy fenced off the collectively grazed village commons to establish vast private estates, simultaneously creating a large class of landless workers who had to choose between ploughing their landlords’ fields or heading to industrial centres to find waged work”.
Today half of England is owned by only one percent of the population and less than 10% of land is accessible to the general public; yet, access to nature is essential for our well-being. At the same time, the government is planning to make trespass in England a criminal offence (it is currently a civil offence). This would have made it virtually impossible for adventurers such as ‘Quintin Lake‘ to walk and camp around the entire coastline of the UK. It will also criminalise some of the most marginalised people in society – see George Monbiot’s Guardian article.
On the other hand, post-lockdown Britain is drowning in litter and abandoned tents and even our National Parks are clamping down on wild camping. Some farmers are genuinely fearful of both Covid-19 and criminal damage.
But could a lack of respect for the countryside be a symptom of systemic disenfranchisement? Is access to the countryside equal in England across class and culture? Should the Countryside Code be better communicated? Should rights and responsibilities go hand in hand as they do in Scotland? Should there be a land-value tax or should land in England be redistributed equally? How do you teach respect?
Tell us what do you think.
The discussion will be online via ‘zoom’ and access is free, but places are limited. To request an invite email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) briefly introducing yourself (if we don’t already know each other) with either a link to your twitter or LinkedIn profile for verification.
This will be an interactive session and all attendees will have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion about ‘Who Owns England?’.
PS: The online petition to stop the criminalisation of trespass has over 100,000 signatures is here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300139