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Who Owns the Land? A New Theory of Rights & Responsibilities

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2 Who Ownsthe Land Horizontal

In partnership with Dark Matter Labs

Property rights are increasingly recognised as a structural problem and one of the root causes of the crises of climate change, biodiversity and inequality. Property rights, taken for granted as the foundation of ‘civilised’ societies, are themselves arbitrary legal fictions that vary across histories, jurisdictions, and worldviews. Yet the idea of ownership, an exclusive and almost-total dominion over the ‘owned’, has become ingrained. In turn, these legal fictions bolster practices of financialisation, extraction and monopolisation. They have added layers of abstraction, taking ownership far away from that which is owned, unbundling rights from their responsibilities, and removing co-existence and care from how we ‘own’ and allocate resources.

In the same way that we cannot address our biodiversity crisis by simply planting additional forests, we suggest that we cannot address the structurally detrimental effects of property rights by tinkering at the edges, using surface-level tweaks such as taxes, regulations and contracts. If deep-rooted reform is necessary, do we need to move beyond land and property ownership rights entirely? And if so, what would a world beyond property look like?

This event is part of the series of 5 events around the theme of beyond property and ownership. The other 4 events are Verbs not Nouns - The Role of Language in Scaffolding Alternative Worldviews and Futures, Everyday Life as a Knot of Flows: Conversations Along the River Don, Everyday Life as a Knot of Flows - Collective Mapping for River Don Entanglement, Who Owns The River Don? Exploring Rights of Nature, Self-Ownership & Reciprocal Stewardship. You are encouraged to participate in them all but it's ok if not. Each event will recap the previous ones and some parts will be documented.

Zoom Webinar Link:

Researcher & Designer

Niamh Butler is the Atlas of Ownership researcher - a digital, open library of land ownership models across geography and history, unbundled and classified in such a way as to allow us to identify patterns and compare, and inspire communities and landowners to imagine other ways to own land through designing new legal frameworks.

Calvin is a strategic designer and researcher with a background in architectural and urban design. His research interests are focussed on institutional infrastructures shaping land and the built environment.

Fang is a Responsible Innovation Lead and Strategic Designer primarily focused on societal structural transition and new civics. She has experience in democratic innovation, public service design and prototyping, open policy-making and rule-making, and large-scale civic participation and facilitation.

Jonathan holds a Masters of Science in Design and Urban Ecologies at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. He has been working for more than 15 years on various types of urban related challenges and innovations, acting either as a strategic designer, entrepreneur, curator, documentary filmmaker, writer or speaker. Jonathan co-instigated a number of organizations and initiatives to address issues such as chronic vacancy, heritage destruction, biodiversity loss, and lack of regulatory infrastructures, to name a few. Lapalme's work has appeared in a number of magazines, newspapers and museums.

Part of our 2023 festival strand


How can we respond to the climate crisis and biosphere collapse?