LAND, and our human relationship to it, is the foundation of all cultures, even as industrialized and urbanized a one as ours. Over the course of history, people have related to this foundation of our existence through an amazing technicolor spectrum of passions and institutions, traditions and fresh discoveries, powerful experiences and complacent blindness. Most wars have been fought over control of land; most religions use symbolism drawn from the land; all economies depend on the land.
However, like most foundations, its importance is not something we normally spend much time thinking about. Bedazzled by the cultural superstructure – from nuclear weapons to wholistic health to just trying to keep a job – our attention has little room to appreciate how profoundly the quiet all- pervasive influence of the land affects us.
Yet it is unlikely that we can really build a humane and sustainable culture without a deep reassessment of our relationship to the land – in terms of values, institutions, and patterns of use. The articles in this issue are a step in that directions. They deal with our ideas about ownership, and with one of the most promising alternatives to either state or private ownership – a kind of cooperative community ownership call a land trust. They deal with questions of sustainable use – both in cities and in rural areas. And woven through all this is an exploration of new values, and how they can be put into practice.
The co-editor for this issue is Betty Didcoct. Betty has spent the last few years as executive director of the Turtle Island Fund, helping with the formal process of establishing of stewardship land trusts. At the same time, she is very interested in the intuitive, emotional, and spiritual connection that people have with land. Her knowledge, contacts, and perspective have been a great help in preparing this issue.