Private property and rising water – more discussion

Private property sign

Thomas Rupert ended his post, “Regaining the Commons and the Dialectic on the Private,” with this:

Sea-level rise and its challenges provoke us to reclaim our right, indeed our need, for a constant dialogue about the meaning of property.

Thomas connected the definition of property, and in particular “private property,” with our Rising Waters Confab by reflecting on the fact that a lot of private property will disappear in the coming decades. When this happens, he asks, Who pays and why? Who pays to protect that property as long as possible? Is it fair to ask everyone, even people who don’t have property (that is, all taxpayers), to bear the cost of choices individuals make about where they live?

Some of my own re-thinking about notions of property come from an exploration of the commons – where we find and how we strengthen the commons in our lives today. Recently, I’ve been reading Think Like a Commoner: A short introduction to the life of the commons, by David Bollier. A chapter, “The Empire of Private Property,” begins by imagining one scenario for the way people might use deck chairs on an ocean liner. The “allegory of the deck chairs” suggests that the notion of “property” is more malleable than many of us suspect.

Cover Think like commoner


2 responses to “Private property and rising water – more discussion

  1. Two thoughts:
    1. See the post on the British WWII structures. We people strive to retain their landownership in the water and will sue the governments especially in flooded interior lands. People do own swamps, wetlands and lakes.
    2. America has a history of abandoning bad investments on land – ghost towns, factories, Detroit. After the hurricanes of 1926 and 28 in SE Florida, the upper class investors abandoned the destroyed property selling for 100th its value while the poor stayed after burying in their dead in mass graves.


  2. Here is the introduction to Think like a Commoner.

    From a political perspective, I ask Bollier if we can really transition from an idea on Commons based on a massive surplus (land, sea,wild foods, etc.) to Commons based on scarcity. Does scarcity, like WWII rationing, breed a spiritual sense of Commons or the opposite – control of humans like the criminal code.

    Perhaps the Commons can be useful as an intellectual framework for a spiritual feeling. Every religion needs a framework. Perhaps like the Enlightenment ideas of democracy, the idea of Commons could become the founding principles of future liberal ruling classes – and used perversely by the conservative ruling classes.

    My heart is with the Commons, but my mind…………………….


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