Moving Beyond Ownership

farm photo

The concept and phenomenon we call “ownership” has always seemed rather strange to me.

Take land ownership for example: if the earth is about 4.5 billion years old, and you are – say- 50 years old, how can you truly OWN a piece of the earth?! Let me write that slightly differently to show the absurdity of it: how can something which is 50 years old actually possess something which is 4,500,000,000 years old! That would be like a 1 minute old bacterial cell on your fingernail claiming ownership of you!

Ownership is almost unquestionably accepted to be a part of our modern day culture. It forms an integral part of what I call our ‘consensus reality’ – what we’ve collectively decided to be real or true for us. Yet, what we agree to be true amongst us, is not necessarily true or valid outside of our convenient ‘contexts’.

In a world that dismisses – or conveniently forgets – our intrinsic oneness with all of life , we have come to see ourselves as separate from each other, and often as separate from life itself! In this ‘separation consciousness’ we have concluded that we can actually assume ownership over different things in our reality – ownership over objects, land, resources, even ownership over ideas! But we didn’t stop there! We further concluded that ownership is exclusive – what is owned by one person cannot be owned by another!

This collective agreement has led to all amounts of inequity, animosity, war, death and destruction. This set-up has always irked me on a deep level, and I’m on a mission to help turn this around in whatever way I can. We can certainly all live abundant lives, and this can come about with certain shifts in our culture.

“There is more than enough of everything for everyone to live quite happily. It is simply a matter of changing your ‘every man for himself’ economy to a ‘highest good for all’ economy.”

~ (Tomorrow’s God, Neal Donald Walsch )

So I was most excited when I read in’s “11 Crucial Consumer Trends for 2011” that there are clear signs that the tides in the sea of ownership are turning.

Delightfully, many trends and brands are showing that for many consumers, access is better than ownership. Over the past few years, quite a few industries have been displaying this trend, form textbooks to jewelry to educational video games to calculators.

For consumers, the appeal is obvious:

  • Traditional ownership implies a certain level of responsibility, cost and commitment. Consumers looking for convenience and collecting as many experience as possible want none of these things.
  • Fractional ownership and leasing lifestyle businesses offer the possibility of perpetual upgrades to the latest and greatest, the ability to maximize the number and variety of experiences, and allow consumers to access otherwise out-of-reach luxuries.
  • Owning bulky, irregularly used items is both expensive and unsustainable, especially in dense urban environments where space is at a premium. With more consumers having mobile access to online systems, it becomes easier to book items whenever and wherever they are needed

It’s great to see this becoming a growing trend, with some real big brands getting in on the action. Car sharing is one of the great successes of the OWNER-LESS trend, with car clubs springing up all around the world. The big boost for the OWNER-LESS economy is that with so many highly visible transportation initiatives, and more initiatives in other sectors coming on board, all consumers are becoming used to seeing schemes in action, and more and more are feeling comfortable with the idea of sharing and renting large, expensive or often-idle objects.

These developments really excite me. They speak to a very deep part of my knowing, and to a real grand possibility for humanity.. and I watch with glee!

Think about how much of our resources we can save by not manufacturing as many “things”. Think about how many more people can get access to experiences that were previously only limited to a few. Think about how our economy will change if we are left with significant surpluses, due to fewer purchases.

This transition will no doubt bring many things into question. It is unlikely that it will be a very smooth transition, and it can certainly be argued that there is still a healthy space for some forms of ownership. But however this turns out, it is certainly heartening to see that these alternative models are already successful and spreading.

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