Sam Burnham, Curator
Earlier this year I discussed the significance of people and their intrinsic worth - the economy of people. In the Agrarian mindset, there is another economy to discuss. Like people, it is vital to the our monetary economy and is usually discussed in terms of its monetary value or worth - it's market price. But, like the economy of people, the economy of place can produce a very different value to different people based on different factors.
If you are looking for real estate and you are factoring only values, prices, and potential for resale, etc on monetary purposes alone, you might be looking at Midtown Atlanta, maybe Sea Island, perhaps on one of the squares in Savannah. They are popular, they're convenient to amenities, they are valuable, desirable.
But those factors have no impact on the true value of the land. The true value of it can only be estimated by those who have a connection, a bond with the land. I'm not speaking of a personification of a place. It's much bigger than that. The value of the land is based in a culmination of people, of stories, of memories. The relationship between land and a person takes on an intimacy of sorts - the land becomes part of the person and the person, in turn, becomes a part of the land.
It is this exact bond that leads me to confuse, even anger people to tell them I am a Georgian and a Southerner before I am an American. Some would call it small -minded but Georgia is a place, and regions of Georgia even more so. America is more of an idea. As a place it is much too large and diverse to sever as a true identity. It lacks the intimate connection that my friend Brandon expressed about Tattnall County in a recent Instagram post at Classic Georgia.
With that love of the land comes the only true hope of protecting it. Because it is this love that can produce the true concern for the land that can inspire a level of protection that no state or federal code could ever hope to achieve. The woods where a man's grandfather taught him to hunt are safer from clear cutting than the land protected by the codes of crooked politicians who've never laid eyes on the land. The politicians see the land value in votes, the timber industry in dollars, and the person with that attachment sees the value as one exceeding money.
Once the attachment value of a place exceeds the market value, that place is safe from unhealthy practices. That landowner will defend it at all costs and will only allow resources to be used in ways they believe to be healthy - which does not include sitting idle to never be used. It means wise usage and management. If the value of the land is reduced to monetary alone, the resources can be dismantled in the cheapest, most profitable way. In those cases places are threatened.
In the economy of place, values are subject to change with the generations and the thinking of the people involved. But so long as a place is loved, it will always be valuable, regardless of what the market says. This will work for wild lands, farmland, even a blighted neighborhood. If homeowners have that love of place, they will work to improve their place. As long as these neighborhoods are controlled by slumlords and government housing, the value can only be measured in profits and votes. This ties back into the community stories and even the banking story that I've done here.
The economy of people, the economy of place, the economy of community, these things all connect. If they are all collaborating well, the world will work right. Right now, things aren't connecting as they should be. Our nation is struggling. It will continue to struggle until we can reconnect the these economies, get them in their proper place, and start carrying this nation back where it should be.
Love your place. If you don't, get up and move to a place you love and stay there. Then treat that place like you love it.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire