The Plundered Planet: Why We Must--and How We Can--Manage Nature for Global Prosperity

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Paul Collier's The Bottom Billion was greeted as groundbreaking when it appeared in 2007, winning the Estoril Distinguished Book Prize, the Arthur Ross Book Award, and the Lionel Gelber Prize. Now, in The Plundered Planet, Collier builds upon his renowned work on developing countries and the world's poorest populations to confront the global mismanagement of natural resources.

Proper stewardship of natural assets and liabilities is a matter of planetary urgency: natural resources have the potential either to transform the poorest countries or to tear them apart, while the carbon emissions and agricultural follies of the developed world could further impoverish them. The Plundered Planet charts a course between unchecked profiteering on the one hand and environmental romanticism on the other to offer realistic and sustainable solutions to dauntingly complex issues.

Grounded in a belief in the power of informed citizens, Collier proposes a series of international standards that would help poor countries rich in natural assets better manage those resources, policy changes that would raise world food supply, and a clear-headed approach to climate change that acknowledges the benefits of industrialization while addressing the need for alternatives to carbon trading. Revealing how all of these forces interconnect, The Plundered Planet charts a way forward to avoid the mismanagement of the natural world that threatens our future.

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  • The Plundered Planet
    The Plundered Planet  

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
How can poor countries escape the cycle of environmental degradation and poverty? Collier (The Bottom Billion) argues that technological innovation, environmental protection, and regulation are key to ensuring equitable development. Environmentalists and economists must work together so resources can be responsibly harnessed; if diamonds have sustained Sierra Leone’s bloody feuds, Botswana’s diamond industry has given it the world’s fastest growing economy. Collier explores where and how corruption insinuates itself during the discovery and resource extraction processes, how taxation and royalty on extraction may redistribute wealth to society, how to reinvest this wealth for the future, and how to use renewable resources sustainably. Despite the narrow treatment of “nature” as commodity and some questionable contentions that organic farming is “antiquated,” and that factory farming and genetically modified crops are the only way to alleviate hunger—claims easily challenged by more seasoned agronomists—Collier’s arguments are compassionate and convincing, and his straightforward explanations of economic principles are leavened with humor and impressively accessible. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
Collier (Economics/Oxford Univ.; Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, 2009, etc.) presents a cogent argument for a major reassessment of natural-resource management. Building on the startling data he analyzed in The Bottom Billion (2007), the author delves into some of the trickiest issues facing mankind, including two paradoxical questions: "Who owns natural resources?" and "Who deserves the profits that are borne from natural resources?" The answers are integral to the developing societies making up the "bottom billion," whose potential to rise from poverty may depend on their ability to discover and manage their natural assets. Collier discusses the so-called "resource curse" and even posits-with ardent statistical support-that for a developing economy, discovering a boon of natural resources may not be in its economy's best interest. Without proper regulation, the situation could quickly become ripe for plunder. However, if the country's government handles the newfound commodity appropriately and correctly makes-and reinforces-a series of necessary decisions over the long term, the resources could bring about a sustained period of economic well-being. Collier details each of these decisions and their consequences. As much as 75 percent of the bottom billion's natural resources may still be undiscovered, he writes, and the "failure to harness natural capital is the single-most important missed opportunity in economic development." The author also argues that advanced prospecting techniques in these countries should be financed by public aid. In the second section of the book, Collier examines the same set of issues for naturally renewable commodities, a category that,while not facing the specific challenges of an issue like peak oil, deserves a close look. Despite a fair amount of dense economic analysis, the author does a nice job of presenting complex issues in easy-to-understand language. An important book-another winner from Collier.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195395259
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/11/2010
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Collier is Professor of Economics and Director of the Center for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University and a former director of Development Research at the World Bank. In addition to the award-winning The Bottom Billion, he is the author of Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Natural Disorder Part I: Boom at the Bottom
1. Going, Going, Gone
2. The Scramble for Africa, Mark 2
3. Bonanza: Hunky Dory or Humpty Dumpty?
Part II: Slash and Burn
4. The Breakdown of Custodianship Part III: How Growth Creates Hunger
5. Carbon Emissions and the Decline in Food Supply
6. Asian Growth and the Increase in Food Demand Part IV: Restoring Natural Order
7. Handing the Planet On
8. Facing the Food Crisis
9. Old Morality and New Romanticism Conclusions Notes Index

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Knowledgeable effort to reconcile humanity's economic fate with the natural world

    In the never-ending war between "romantics" and "ostriches," economist Paul Collier stands squarely in the middle. Deeply grounded in the economic and environmental issues of the world's poorest nations, Collier's book provides background and cogent strategy for rational, pragmatic environmental practices (thus pacifying the romantics) and for bringing economic growth to the developing world via the sane, honest exploitation of natural resources (thus pleasing the ostriches). Collier describes the history and economic theory of resource "plunder," and discusses how to turn it into resource management. He's willing to fly in the face of popular opinion, and his hard-earned knowledge makes his arguments difficult to resist. In a perfect world, Collier would write less like an economist. But his ideas are so necessary and his solutions so urgent that readers who put up with his less-than-perfect flow of prose will gain important new insights. getAbstract strongly recommends this groundbreaking work to environmentalists, economists, policy makers, governments of any nation grappling with extracting their natural resources and all those concerned with these issues. And that should be everybody.

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