“As I went walking I saw a sign there
And on the sign it said “No Trespassing.”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing,
That side was made for you and me.
In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,
By the relief office I seen my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking
Is this land made for you and me?
Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.”
The photo is from a Haleola’ili’ānapono in Honolulu (living building on correctly managed land). It is of the materials delivery system initially to get construction materials up the hill where the house sits and now used for getting the week’s Costco shop into the net-zero house – a home that produces 100% of its own energy and water. We toured the remarkable home at the end of our celebration of UN World Habitat Day.
During the conference on affordable housing, there was constant reference to land. Land price is one of the key drivers of housing costs. One myth is there is a shortage of land. There is a shortage of properly managed land. Vacant lots and empty building dot our landscapes while new “luxury” condo buildings go up for international investors to park their money.
In her message to the conference, Ms. Maimunah Mohd Sharif, UN Habitat Executive Director asked us to add an “R” to the paradigm of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Rethink – rethink how we use our land and the reason we develop real estate. Our problems are not intractable. In fact the solutions are quite simple. They may be difficult to execute, but our future depends on our ability to build communities rather than exclusive enclaves. We must rethink virtually every policy and system put in place since the “Me” Decade. Let’s all take action today to respect, renew and reclaim our land and our communities.