The New Homestead Act

The practices we now call conservation are, to a large extent, local alleviations of biotic pain. They are necessary, but they must not be confused with cures. The art of land doctoring is being practiced with vigor, but the science of land health is yet to be born.

— Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

The malls are the soon-to-be ghost towns
So long, farewell, goodbye

— Modest Mouse, “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine”

We all know that our money will be worthless soon, yes? Our national debt is over 19 trillion and counting, gaining approximately one trillion dollars per year.

Do you know that our government, alongside NATO and Israel, are fighting and conducting special operations in 134 countries? The war in Iraq and Syria may garner all mainstream attention, but our government is also deeply involved, and thus morally culpable, in the daily killings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Mali, Nigeria, and many, many more nations.

Did you know that the top ten commercial seed companies control 73% of world seed sales? Or that the biggest six agrichemical companies produce over 50,000 types of pesticides? And that we use seven billion pounds of pesticides every year, with at least 25 million farmers experiencing symptoms of pesticide poisoning?

The facts have all been laid out, for those with eyes to see. We’re in debt up to our eyeballs, in a global war with no end in sight, with toxins in our farmlands, our watersheds, our food, and poison fills even our ladies’ wombs and courses through our bloodstream.

We can all agree that it is land, and the accompanying natural resources, that we live off of, and not cash bills or electronic bank accounts, right? And that war only leads to more violence, physically and spiritually? And that the only way to save our crops and topsoil, our ecosystems and plant and animal diversity, and conserve our oceans and watersheds, is to actually protect them, and not shut our eyes to the ravages of corporate agribusiness.

That’s why I’m proposing a New Homestead Act. This time, the government won’t be giving away free land, though: it’s up to us to take it, using nonviolence and civil disobedience. If you’re in the West, occupying land of the Bureau of Land mis-Management (BLM) would be a good place to start. Of course, this is mostly marginal land for pasture and grazing. You can set up shop in the National Forests for clean water and some of the only abundant fishing and hunting left in the entire nation. As for virile farmland in the plains and the East, the best has been purchased by corporations and landholders: occupying propertied land is necessary.

That’s why we’re offering this special, one time deal for New Homsteaders, (some exclusions may apply) because we can’t do this alone. And I encourage people to find like-minded souls; family, friends, and neighbors and strangers, to offer the same deal, and, if they can’t protest/demonstrate/occupy/squat on land, (as sustainable land use is a birthright of all people), to at least follow through on these supplementary steps:

1) For anyone who cuts up their credit card, you will receive a shovel.

2) Give away your car or tractor, and receive your choice of horse, cow, mule, pig, goat, sheep, or pony (yes, pony: this offer is endorsed by presidential candidate Vermin Supreme).

3) Get rid of (free-cycle or recycle) your TV, and receive heirloom, non-GMO seeds of your choice.

4) Get rid of your floppy couch (don’t try to burn it, as it may be covered with toxic and cancer-causing flame retardants) and receive…better posture.

5) Get rid of your oversized American flag (again, better not to burn it, as it’s soaked in bleach, toxic dye, and pesticides, although the impact may be liberating and exhilarating in this case) and receive one free pair of sustainably made hemp trousers. That’s right; it’s time to put on your big boy/girl pants!

6) Take out a cash bill from your wallet/purse. Not a one, something that will hurt a bit when it’s gone. I used a twenty. Channel all the emotions you feel about this piece of paper. Don’t hold back. When you’re done, burn it.

7) Acknowledge the debt you owe to the Earth, the next time you use your computer or cell phone. Burn a candle, light some sage or incense. Say a prayer, perform a cleansing ritual.

8) Start a compost heap. We feed on dead plants and animals. So does the Earth. It wants its helping of gooey, moist vegetables, skins, rinds, peels, eggshells. It feeds off these things.

9) Smile at a stranger. Hold the door open for some folks. Be kind, attentive, and do not rush through your day. Go outside, breathe in the air, and relax. These things are all free, and aren’t illegal. Yet.

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. His articles have appeared online at CounterPunch, Global Research, Countercurrents, Gods & Radicals, Dissident Voice, The Ecologist, and more. You can email him at wilhawes@gmail.com. Visit his website williamhawes.wordpress.com Read other articles by William.