Book details

Free the Land

How We Can Fight Poverty and Climate Chaos

Author: Audrea Lim

Free the Land

Free the Land


About This Book

An eye-opening examination of how treating land as a source of profit has a massive impact on racial inequality and the housing, gentrification, and environmental crises.

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Book Details

An eye-opening examination of how treating land as a source of profit has a massive impact on racial inequality and the housing, gentrification, and environmental crises.

Climate change, gentrification, racial inequity, and corporate greed are some of the most urgent problems facing our society. They are traditionally treated as unrelated issues, but they all share a common root: the commodification of land. Environmental journalist Audrea Lim began to notice these connections a decade ago when she reported on the Native communities leading the fight against oil mining on their lands in the Canadian tar sands near her hometown of Calgary, but before long, she saw the essential role of land commodification and private ownership everywhere she looked: in foreclosure-racked suburbs and gentrifying cities like New York City; among poor, small farmers struggling to keep their businesses afloat; and in low-income communities attempting to resist mines and industrial development on their lands, only to find that their voices counted less than those of shareholders living thousands of miles away.

Free The Land
is a captivating and beautifully rendered look at the ways that our relationship to the land is the core cause of the most pressing justice issues in North America. Lim expertly weaves together seemingly disparate themes into a unified theory of social justice, describes how the land ownership system developed over the centuries, and presents original reporting from a wide range of activists and policy makers to illustrate the profound impact it continues to have on our society today.

Ultimately, this book offers a message of hope: by approaching these socioeconomic issues holistically, we can begin to imagine just alternatives to fossil-fueled capitalism, new ways to build community, and a more sustainable, equitable world.

Imprint Publisher

St. Martin's Press



In The News

“We're clearly at a moment where we've started running into real roadblocks as a species—when we need to question some very basic assumptions, perhaps above all about the proper balance between individual and community. This fascinating book offers some very new insights into that question—it will knock some rust off your brain!”
—Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature

“In this provocatively titled exploration of land ownership in the U.S., journalist Lim does an excellent job of showing just how complicated the topic of private property can be...With this timely, perceptive, smart, and immensely important inquiry, Lim proves herself to be a writer to watch.”
Booklist (starred)

"Audrea Lim’s magnificent, provocative Free the Land illuminates how American ideas about land ownership contribute to social injustice...Lim has been thinking long and deeply about these issues, and her research has taken her to Native reservations, Puerto Rico, crumbling New York City neighborhoods and aspirational communities in Minnesota and Georgia. Her meetings and interviews with people exploring alternative ways of thinking about land ownership make for fascinating reading."
BookPage (starred)

Free the Land is an incredible book. Weaving together history, law, and real stories of innovation and resistance, Audrea Lim helps liberate the imagination by reminding us that the status quo of concentrated and profit-driven land ownership isn’t set in stone. This book is a map to other, better ways of living together and sharing the earth that sustains us.”
—Astra Taylor, author of The Age of Insecurity

“Coverage of housing unaffordability and gentrification often skirts the root cause: Land. Audrea Lim’s Free the Land tackles this issue head-on, arguing in clear and capable prose that land possession—and profit—drives inequality and environmental degradation. Free the Land offers a compelling and urgent dispatch from the front lines of those working to decommodify land, reimagine our relationship to the ground we occupy, and build more equitable systems of housing, agriculture, and community.”
—Megan Kimble, author of City Limits

“What a read! Free the Land is an ambitious book done impressively well, which not only gives the reader a fuller understanding of who truly owns the land we live on, but also elucidates the structural forces that have led to that ownership. What makes this book particularly important is its vast tapestry and scale—Lim takes us from medieval Europe to modern day Brooklyn, from Puerto Rico to the Rocky Mountains, to protests in Fort McMurray and Standing Rock—then back again. In these interwoven stories she shows us how land has become an arbiter of wealth and privilege, and more importantly—why that matters. Free the Land is the clarion call we needed in order to rethink how we manage our land, a vital and exciting prospect!”
—Lyndsie Bourgon, author of Tree Thieves, finalist for the Lukas Book Prize

Free the Land is a magnificent, methodical book that provides fresh insight into one of the central questions of life in North America—who owns this land and who has the right to control it? Audrea Lim grounds her history through narratives that are intimate, fast-moving, and painstakingly reported. In the face of looming crises, Lim offers hard-earned hope for a future where everyone can thrive.”
—Jessica Goudeau, author of After The Last Border, winner of the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize

"In a bold manifesto that dreams big, Lim argues that our country should dare to imagine a colossal transformation: what if our land were publicly owned, shared, and put to use to enrich us all?"
Boston Globe, "75 Books We're Most Excited to Read this Summer"

"A fascinating look at alternative landownership practices. Recommended for readers interested in economics, the environment, and issues of inequality."
Library Journal

"Lim is a single-minded and enthusiastic advocate for the common and public ownership of land."

About the Creators

Free the Land

Free the Land