Who Owns The Earth?
Who Owns the Earth?
Warning: This is a misleading question. The thought processes involved in trying to answer this question may reveal your underlying value assumptions. A paradigm shift may be necessary in order to fully appreciate why so many different people will answer this question in so many different ways.
What answers popped into your mind?
Was it perhaps a list of the world's biggest landowners?
Or maybe you thought of your religious upbringing and of how the Bible has taught you that “God created the Heavens and the Earth”(Genesis 1:1) “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) Many fundamentalist Christians might even go so far as to say that since Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and since God created the Earth, then the Earth belongs to Jesus, either because it is his inheritance or because Jesus is God, who created the Earth, thus making it his own creation.
If you are a patriot, you might say that the Earth is divided among the nations who own their own sovereign territories, with all the rights to defend and protect those territories.
The basis of the religious claim of God's ownership is that he created the Earth. Like God, if I create something with my own two hands, then I own that thing, right? If I pick up a rock from the seashore and shape it into a sharp edge that can be used to clean fish, then that rock becomes my knife. The rock was not mine to begin with, but once I changed that rock into a knife, it became my knife. The changing of a rock into a knife is applied technology. There are lots of rocks along the shore, so if you want a rock, you can also pick one up. But if you want a knife, you are either going to have to make one for yourself or you are going to have to somehow get my knife. Knowing how to make a knife is technology. Now, so long as you and I are good friends, there is no problem. If you want my knife, I might say, “Sure, no problem, you may have this one and I will get another rock and make a second knife for myself, then we can both prepare fish more quickly and easily for our meal.” Or I might teach you how to make a knife for yourself. In either case, my idea of creating a knife has had only a beneficial effect because of the nature of my relationship to you. On the other hand, if I don't know you from Adam, then I might say to you something like: “If I give you my knife, then I will no longer have a knife. What will you give me in return?” This is perhaps the manner in which the idea of barter, and eventually monetary exchange, was born. In this case, the idea of ownership means a restriction of access to the technological innovation of knives, with the idea of monetary exchange or barter being directly tied to this idea of restriction of access. The problems with ownership then arise not from technological innovation, but from my relationship with you. If I don't like you, I might use my knife to kill you and take your fish.
The critical element in the paradigm shift that is implied by our original question, “Who Owns the Earth?” is that it depends on how I view my relationship with you. An astute observation of the state of our global civilization and the manner in which our fragmented and divisive relationships have expressed themselves into the world through the ideas of private ownership, money, nations and all the behaviors that arise from these expressions, such as poverty, crime, authoritarian governments, environmental degradation, starvation, genocide and wars should make it abundantly clear that these persistent human problems can only begin to be healed by a fundamental paradigm shift of human values: my relationship with you. When my relationship with you is grounded in mutual understanding and trust, then the ideas of ownership, property, money, laws and nations become irrelevant. Given the accelerating rate of modern technological innovation, the basic needs of every man woman and child on Earth can easily be met.
The manner in which that technology is applied, whether it be through the modes of divisive profit-based incentives, or through sharing and cooperation, will determine the ultimate fate of human life on Earth. In the end, it matters not one whit “Who Owns the Earth” if we are unable to learn to share. Will human technology create the ultimate weapons of mass destruction, or will it create a civilization of abundance? It all depends on my relationship with you.