The Neglected Responsibility that Comes Along with Land Ownership

by Guest Writer

There is tremendous responsibility that anyone who owns or who is in the market for a land property should be aware of. One must, first and foremost, consider the implications as well as the reality of “owning” a piece of the natural environment. The land you “own” is just a fraction of a greater dynamic and highly interconnected system that is the natural environment. While your knowledge and your actions may be vast, you are just one of many species that inhabit “your” land. Although slow by human standards, the water, air and earth that occupy your “property” are in constant motion and transcend property lines. As a result, the changes you incur and the impact you have on “your land” are not only received by you, but by the surrounding environment. By “owning” the exclusive rights to a piece of the natural environment, that individual has a tremendous and frequently neglected responsibility of interacting with the land in such a way as to maintain the health and integrity of the system as a whole.

The concept that a sole member of one particular species can “own” a piece of the natural environment is not only completely farfetched but gives rise to a frightening mentality. Property laws and rights enforce this mindset that humans beings are entitled to dominate and manipulate a portion of the natural environment without addressing the tremendous consequences. While certain laws do exist to regulate the extent to which humans can impact the natural environment, these laws are minimal and are nothing compared to the laws that protect the individuals right to own land in the first place.

Historically, ownership of land was directly correlated to economic prosperity. The majority of wealth was attained through the exclusive right to the natural resources contained within the land. In order to protect one’s wealth the extent of one’s land property had to be explicitly defined, spurring the need for laws that outlined property rights and ownership. Prior to the United States’ declaration of independence in 1776, the rights to land property on the continent were relatively exclusive and determined through inheritance law, religious right or by the colonizing party. These circumstances prevented the inhabitants of the New World, who were well aware of the direct relationship between land ownership and economic prosperity, from reaping the benefits of the vast amounts of land upon which they resided.

Hence when the United States was established it was founded on the principles of freedom and equality, in other words, the principle that affluent white males above the age of eighteen reserved the right to reap the economic benefits of the land as specified through well-crafted property rights legislation (see Bill of Rights). This genre of legislation was and is still considered to be a staple of American culture that has been protected ardently ever since it was first instated over two hundred years ago.

Property rights legislation is just one example of many U.S. legal statutes that are incredibly outdated. It is widely known that one’s level of economic prosperity no longer hinges on their ownership of land property. Yet we still live by the laws that were established in a time when the knowledge we possess today in regards to the severity of humanity’s impact on the natural environment was underdeveloped. What you should take away from this is that we know better now. We are more advanced and well educated. Property rights are ancient and conflict heavily with our efforts to protect the natural environment. It is up to you, the “land owner,” to take responsibility for piece of nature over which you reside.

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