Monday, August 16, 2010
Property issues arise in interconnected physical, social, and legal environments. All indications point to interconnections that are complex, far-reaching in scope, multi-scalar, dynamic, and nonlinear. Property institutions must adapt to these complexities and changing conditions. However, it has become apparent that the patterns and practices of our uses of land, water, and the environment are unsustainable ecologically and socially. While both legal and socio-cultural understandings of property are evolving, they remain hampered by the supposedly wealth-maximizing and production-maximizing concept that property is a bundle of rights, often based in a mental image of a “bundle of sticks,” with each stick in the bundle representing a different right or entitlement. An alternative concept of property is that property is a “web of interests,” in which property interests are defined by the particular characteristics of the object of the property (including natural features and environmental carrying capacity) and by the interconnected relationships that people, entities, and institutions form with respect to the particular object. This chapter discusses how the web of interests concept might facilitate a more ecologically and socially sustainable definition of property interests amid the realities of the interconnected environments in which property issues arise. The chapter gives particular attention to issues of land and water, and explores the implications of sustainable webs of interest in water.I still rely heavily on the bundle-of-sticks metaphor for teaching, but I'm coming around to Tony's web-of-interests conceptualization. Looks like a fascinating piece.
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