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Lotta Hanski, CEO of Geocollectors. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Text: Mark Fletcher

Pictures: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

There has sadly been many examples all over the world of pristine environments being churned up in the interests of personal, commercial or even political gain. These changes not only affect the immediate area and its wildlife but can have a negative impact on the surrounding areas.

A newish startup company from Finland endeavours to protect natural wilderness from development and preserve the locations natural state. The idea, which can be seen as initially being quite bizarre is an ingenious way of creating a community of like-minded individuals who are empowered to have an active involvement in preserving unique locations all around the world.

It makes sense that a new venture such as Geocollectors and its ideals would come from Finland where nature is a hugely important part of the Finnish identity.

Like many great ideas, the idea of Geocollectors was born in the sauna by a group of entrepreneurs keen to have a hand in the preservation of natural wilderness.

The entrepreneurs initially came up with the concept as more of a “what if . . . ” kind of thing and the idea got left behind in the sauna.

However, over time it became clear that this idea was very promising and offered a real chance to offer a service in sustainability.

The concept is such that Geocollectors buys untouched wilderness and then sells it in one square metre blocks to individuals who can build up a collection of land which they can access virtually through the companies remote webcams or if so inclined, hike by traditional means to view it with their own eyes.

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After a successful seed funding campaign they were able to establish Geocollectors in 2012 and buy up their first plots of land in Finnish Lapland.

Their idea though extends far beyond the confines of Finland to reach its ultimate potential of being a global proposition.

The concept is such that Geocollectors buys untouched wilderness and then sells it in one square metre blocks to individuals who can build up a collection of land which they can access virtually through the companies remote webcams or if so inclined, hike by traditional means to view it with their own eyes.

Lotta Hanski, CEO of the company, says that one of the company’s primary aims is that the land is crowd-sourced and each square metre more or less has a different owner therefore making it very difficult for any companies or individuals to buy the land en masse for development at a later stage.

There is no limit to the blocks of land you can buy and no limits of course to which land in which country you could choose to purchase. Perhaps you would rather own land in hotter climates, or in colder climates, different time zones or maybe you want to have a diverse mix, the choice is yours.

Lotta Hanski, CEO of the company, says that one of the company’s primary aims is that the land is crowd-sourced and each square metre more or less has a different owner therefore making it very difficult for any companies or individuals to buy the land en masse for development at a later stage. Furthermore, a clear condition of land purchase is that nothing can be built upon it and with a limited space of one square metre, it would be an effective deterrent for such ambitions.

If you want to build a house or a hotel, there are plenty of other places to do it. Another aim of the company would be to buy land that adjoins onto world heritage listed properties which are already preserved thus giving an extension to the size of the protected area.

Lapland, though is just the very start of Geocollectors ambitious plans to acquire land to sell from all over the world and they have started to make negotiations in countries like Mexico, America , Brazil and Australia to name only a few.

The Geocollectors community is also encouraged to offer suggestions as to land that could be purchased to protect. The word ‘community’ carries very strongly here as Geocollectors truly wants participation from their members.

The square metre blocks are sold for about 92 euros (100 USD) apiece and along with the pride of owning your own bit of unique wilderness, you get the proprietors package which consists of a certificate of ownership and a token which is synonymous with the region where you own the land. In the Lapland package for example, comes a piece of green dolomite marble which is found in the deposits of Kittilä.

This is housed in a box with the coordinates of the region your block of land is positioned in.

Hanski says that she has herself given the gift of land to some of her friends. The initial reaction was that of bemusement but after further consideration they really began to appreciate just what they had.

Lapland, though is just the very start of Geocollectors ambitious plans to acquire land to sell from all over the world and they have started to make negotiations in countries like Mexico, America , Brazil and Australia to name only a few.

ft-geocollectorsHanski points out that the means of acquiring land in all these different regions varies quite a lot and the red tape involved can sometimes induce the will to pull ones hair. Depending on the land and its previous owner in question, negotiations can extend from local business people through to even local tribes’ people and this ever evolving process keeps Hanski and her colleagues on their toes and ensures that every day presents new challenges but also exciting new possibilities.

It’s very important to ensure that land purchase has always gone through the proper channels and of course Geocollectors wants to make sure that the land they own is theirs to sell!

One of the key points in this venture that has come up more recently is the huge potential for the square metre land block (along with its proprietors package) as a gift. Hanski says that she has herself given the gift of land to some of her friends. The initial reaction was that of bemusement but after further consideration they really began to appreciate just what they had. Even though you cannot do anything with the land, you are free to view it as described above and to know that you are the proud owner gives a beautiful tangible intangibility to it, or is that the other way around?

This idea is a means to be part of a community of likeminded individuals who can have a positive influence on natural habitats, which should rightfully stay that way.

It offers a much more effective way of having a say than having to chain yourself to a tree.

 

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