The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth

Overview

An unprecedented land grab is taking place around the world. Fearing future food shortages or eager to profit from them, the world’s wealthiest and most acquisitive countries, corporations, and individuals have been buying and leasing vast tracts of land around the world. The scale is astounding: parcels the size of small countries are being gobbled up across the plains of Africa, the paddy fields of Southeast Asia, the jungles of South America, and the prairies of Eastern Europe. Veteran science writer Fred ...

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The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth

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Overview

An unprecedented land grab is taking place around the world. Fearing future food shortages or eager to profit from them, the world’s wealthiest and most acquisitive countries, corporations, and individuals have been buying and leasing vast tracts of land around the world. The scale is astounding: parcels the size of small countries are being gobbled up across the plains of Africa, the paddy fields of Southeast Asia, the jungles of South America, and the prairies of Eastern Europe. Veteran science writer Fred Pearce spent a year circling the globe to find out who was doing the buying, whose land was being taken over, and what the effect of these massive land deals seems to be.
 
The Land Grabbers is a first-of-its-kind exposé that reveals the scale and the human costs of the land grab, one of the most profound ethical, environmental, and economic issues facing the globalized world in the twenty-first century. The corporations, speculators, and governments scooping up land cheap in the developing world claim that industrial-scale farming will help local economies. But Pearce’s research reveals a far more troubling reality. While some mega-farms are ethically run, all too often poor farmers and cattle herders are evicted from ancestral lands or cut off from water sources. The good jobs promised by foreign capitalists and home governments alike fail to materialize. Hungry nations are being forced to export their food to the wealthy, and corporate potentates run fiefdoms oblivious to the country beyond their fences.
 
Pearce’s story is populated with larger-than-life characters, from financier George Soros and industry tycoon Richard Branson, to Gulf state sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, British barons, and Burmese generals. We discover why Goldman Sachs is buying up the Chinese poultry industry, what Lord Rothschild and a legendary 1970s asset-stripper are doing in the backwoods of Brazil, and what plans a Saudi oil billionaire has for Ethiopia. Along the way, Pearce introduces us to the people who actually live on, and live off of, the supposedly “empty” land that is being grabbed, from Cambodian peasants, victimized first by the Khmer Rouge and now by crony capitalism, to African pastoralists confined to ever-smaller tracts. 
 
Over the next few decades, land grabbing may matter more, to more of the planet’s people, than even climate change. It will affect who eats and who does not, who gets richer and who gets poorer, and whether agrarian societies can exist outside corporate control. It is the new battle over who owns the planet.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Pearce may be the only person to visit all the critical frontlines worldwide, and his brilliant reporting makes the abstraction real. Probably the most important environmental book anyone could read right now.”—Timothy Searchinger, fellow, German Marshall Fund; research scholar, Princeton University 

“Compelling and well-researched ... Dissects the modern rush to acquire land for production, investment, speculation or preservation.”—Wendy Wolford, Nature
 
“Raises complex and urgent issues.”—Booklist, starred review
 
“A thorough and enlightening exposé.”—Conservation 

“A well-researched, informative and accessible look at important economic and agricultural issues.”—Kirkus Reviews

“This is just what the world has been waiting for—a detailed overview of the land grabs that are the principal manifestation of a new geopolitics of food.”—Lester R. Brown, President of Earth Policy Institute and author of World on the Edge

“The remarkable Fred Pearce has done it again: in The Land Grabbers he opens up vastly important new terrain few of us have even noticed. When the rich and powerful start buying up the planet's fundamental resources—land and water—from the poor and vulnerable, we'd all better notice.”—James Gustave Speth, author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability

“Wherever on this earth poor villagers, agribusiness magnates, ignorant or corrupt governments, petrodollars, commodity traders and hungry multitudes come together, Fred Pearce is at the nexus, brilliantly reporting on the biggest swindle of the 21st century. With the modern landgrab, the enclosure movement has attained planetary proportions and Pearce is without peer in describing the dire consequences of this ongoing human and environmental disaster.”—Susan George, author, Hijacking America, board president, the Transnational Institute
 
"In The Land Grabbers, Pearce has produced a powerful piece of journalism that illuminates how the drive for expanded food production is transfomring the planet. anyone who cares where her next meal is coming from should read it."–Washington Post

From the Hardcover edition.

The Washington Post
In The Land Grabbers, Pearce has produced a powerful piece of journalism that illuminates how the drive for expanded food production is transforming the planet. Anyone who cares where her next meal is coming from should read it.
—Juliet Eilperin
Publishers Weekly
In the latest by environmental journalist Pearce (When the Rivers Run Dry), politics and human rights take center stage. Bouncing around the globe, Pearce analyzes the practices of “land grabbers”—outsiders contentiously acquiring large-scale land rights—and exposes their often heavy-handed tactics. Whether in Tanzania, Australia, or Kenya, Pearce shows how land grabbers displace natives who have lived there for generations and who receive little or no help from national laws. Through personal interviews and stories, Pearce reveals how governments often work on the side of big corporations, with a “casual indifference to people’s rights.” As he makes clear, it’s dangerous to pretend that big commercial farming has any interest in feeding the world. His survey also extends beyond land grabbing, such as in a chapter dealing with the Chicago Board of Trade, which focuses on the evils of market speculators and day traders. While readers will find the lives and tribulations of uprooted natives captivating and troubling, the fact that these incidents are not localized to the Third World is part of Pearce’s message. Unfortunately the narrative becomes repetitive, resulting in the feeling of reading the same story over and over again. Agent: Jessica Woollard, the Marsh Agency. (May)
Kirkus Reviews
New Scientist environmental and development consultant Pearce (The Coming Population Crash, 2010, etc.) documents widespread global "land grabs" by moneyed interests and the dire consequences for poor people around the world. In this wide-ranging but efficient book, the author looks at how purchases by foreign investors of massive tracts of land in countries in Africa, South America, the former Soviet bloc and elsewhere have often caused local ruin. Impoverished residents of these countries, he writes, often lose their land, homes and livelihoods as they are evicted to make way for new projects. Most often those projects are massive industrial farms, with the majority of profits enriching foreign companies and their investors. Pearce is acclaimed for his keen environmental reporting in books about water shortages (When the Rivers Run Dry, 2006) and climate change (With Speed and Violence, 2007), and here he discusses environmental impact, particularly regarding projects in which water sources are diverted or forests are razed. More often the author focuses on financial and societal consequences, particularly for those at the bottom of the economic totem pole. These big-ticket investment deals often influence and distort governments and the law. In one section, he details how international investment agreements can create an environment in which "[e]ven if the locals are starving or parched with thirst, in law the rights of the foreign investor come first." He also writes of how even well-meaning conservation groups' efforts to create protected wildlife zones in some countries can have the side effect of uprooting local residents. Pearce paints a bleak picture, with many seemingly insurmountable problems, but he provides an important look at a problem rarely discussed in the mainstream media. A well-researched, informative and accessible look at important economic and agricultural issues.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807003411
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 3/26/2013
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 466,373
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Fred Pearce is an award-winning author and journalist based in London. He has reported on environment, science, and development issues from sixty-seven countries over the past twenty years. Environment consultant at New Scientist since 1992, he also writes regularly for the Guardian newspaper and Yale University’s prestigious e360 website. Pearce was voted UK Environment Journalist of the Year in 2001 and CGIAR agricultural research journalist of the year in 2002, and won a lifetime achievement award from the Association of British Science Writers in 2011. His many books include With Speed and Violence, Confessions of an Eco-Sinner, The Coming Population Crash, and When the Rivers Run Dry. 
 

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Part one : land wars

Chapter 1 Gambella, Ethiopia
Tragedy in the Commons
 
Chapter 2 Chicago, U.S.A.
The Price of Food

Chapter 3 Saudi Arabia
Plowing in the Petrodollars

Chapter 4 South Sudan
Up the Nile with the Capitalists of Chaos

Part two : White Men in Africa

Chapter 5 Yala Swamp, Kenya
One Man’s Dominion

Chapter 6 Liberia
The Resource Curse

Chapter 7 Palm Bay, Liberia
Return of the Oil Palm

Chapter 8 London, England
Pinstripes and Pitchforks

Part three : Across the Globe

Chapter 9 Ukraine
Lebensraum

Chapter 10 Western Bahia, Brazil
Soylandia

Chapter 11 Chaco, Paraguay
Chaco Apocalyptico

Chapter 12 Latin America
The New Conquistadors

Chapter 13 Patagonia
The Last Place on Earth

Chapter 14 Australia
Under the Shade of a Coolibah Tree

Part four : China ’s backyard

Chapter 15 Sumatra, Indonesia
Pulping the Jungle

Chapter 16 Papua New Guinea
“A Truly Wild Island”

Chapter 17 Cambodia
Sweet and Sour

Chapter 18 Southeast Asia
Rubber Hits the Road to China

Part five : African dreams

Chapter 19 Maasailand, Tanzania
The White People’s Place

Chapter 20 South Africa
Green Grab

Chapter 21 Africa
The Second Great Trek

Chapter 22 Mozambique
The Biofuels Bubble

Chapter 23 Zimbabwe
On the Fast Track

Part six : the last enclosure

Chapter 24 Central Africa
Laws of the Jungle

Chapter 25 Inner Niger Delta, Mali
West African Water Grab

Chapter 26 Badia, Jordan
On the Commons

Chapter 27 London, England
Feeding the World

notes on sources index

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