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  1. Who owns the green grass?

    In almost all my life I have been keen to acquire me own property. It started sometime in my salad days when I rented a bedsit. While I shared accommodation with other people, I dreamed of a private property surrounded by a large garden, a place where I could be at peace, where no one could lock themselves in at any time and where I could stay the rest of my life.


    The dream quickly went true and in a few years I got so much money between my hands that I could acquire several properties. A Chinese philosopher has stated that if you own more than 7 things, it is not you who own the things, but the things that own you. I could not have said it better myself. Now it’s no longer a matter of money, but what kind of life I want to live. I do not have any intention of owning many things, just to have them in my possession – if you know what I mean.

    Take the green grass, for example. It grows everywhere. Why should I own green grass? I can just go out in the woods, in the countryside and find plenty of it. For many years I used to own a house and a garden. Now I have moved to a home with neither grass nor garden, but right outside the long side of our apartment separated by a narrow porch with railings, is one of the Oslo area’s finest parks, Nansenparken at Fornebu. We wake to the quack of ducks in the duck pond just outside the bedroom windows. Occasionally disturbed by the machines of the gardeners who work for the municipality. Although the noise is bad, it’s like music to my ears. When I owned the green grass myself, I had to mow it.

    Since I’m out in the park an hour every day with my dogs, I get much time to philosophize over having to share the park with other people. I have noticed that all people look remarkably clean, neat and rich. I see organized jogging groups for young mothers with sports strollers and bare, flat stomachs, middle-aged couple in power walk with good arm swing and purposeful look, tough men on shiny new bikes that hardly have been outside the park, and single men and women who figured out that it was time to acquire a dog – a small “Fido” – when they moved into the park.

    It is striking to see how similar the people around me really are. They fall all into the category of “clean, neat and rich”. When I notice an exception, it’s probably someone who works for someone who is “clean, neat and rich”. Of course I have nothing against sharing the park with such great people, but think that the area around the park is far from fully developed. It is likely that new houses will be built denser, with more affordable housing units, so that more people can have the opportunity to move in. It could mean that we in the future might have to share the park with people who are less clean, neat and rich, such as people on welfare, single mothers, immigrants and other stigmatized groups. When more people move in here, the area will become more attractive for those who are at the very bottom of the social ladder, such as beggars, homeless people, drug addicts and other scruffy people. They will surely enjoy the beautiful park areas as much as any of us a late summer day.

    I imagine the consequences. Tagging on concrete walls, litter along the trails, beggars outside our font doors. Will clean, neat and rich people accept this? Hardly. But we have to stop and think:

    Who owns the green grass?

    The new buildings at Fornebu are built by different concept than other parts of Oslo West and Bærum. There are no private gardens – just some tiny grass patches outside homes located on the ground floor. It lacks, however, not on greenery. The area consists of lawns, rocks, hills, trees of all shapes, water mirrors, fountains, wetlands, flower beds, plants for sports of various kinds, dog exercise yard, and so on. Everything what one desires in a paradise. And for the time being, the capacity is good.

    The whole thing is a model of a Scandinavian social democracy. The park is maintained by Fornebu Driftsforening, KLP and Bærum Municipality, through money paid into the common expenses and tax. One could say that one and each of us contribute according to ability and uses the benefits after demand. I am very happy and pay my fees and taxes with pleasure.

    The problem that can arise is of course also of social democratic art. If the facilities are used by many people without any ability to pay for it, even though they occupy a lot of space, others may have to pay more to keep the facility clean and nice, perhaps in the form of additional fees or taxes. If not, the current maintenance budget may not be sufficient to keep the park as beautiful as it is today. Perhaps, a major part of the community’s maintenance means are vasted in order to remove graffiti and sweep up broken glass, instead of neatly cutting and clipping of lawns and bushes.

    So, as I turn into the path that leads down to the duck pond, where me and my dogs live, I think: This is an affluent society in miniature, a Norway or Europe north of the Mediterranean. If we, who are clean, neat and rich do not want to have dirty, tired and poor people on our doormats, we must either abandon our social society in favor of a colder community with private gardens and tall fences that block strangers out. Or we need to give them space in our park and pave the way for them to thrive there. Maybe they can help to keep the park clean and neat?

    🙂 There is no point in owning the green grass.

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