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The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth Hardcover – May 29, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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

About 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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (May 29, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807003247
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807003244
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,334,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Derek Byerlee on July 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the EarthPearce has written a book on a topical and controversial theme--foreign investment in farmland--that can be commended on at least three counts. First, he did a lot of traveling in Africa, Asia and South America to visit some rather difficult-to-reach outposts such as Gambella in Ethiopia. This is an important plus given the plethora of armchair writers on the book's theme. Second, he talked to a lot of people on both sides of the issue and at times grudgingly tries to make a balanced assessment. Third, he keeps the reader entertained by his background descriptions of the people behind foreign land deals.

All of this could have been five star material if he had taken more time to build a more focused and balanced book. Unfortunately he has produced a book with many tangents to his main thesis stated in Chapter 1--that land-short food importing countries are buying up land to ensure their food security. Many of the chapters do not deal with food at all but rather diverge into rubber, biofuels, logging, conservation, and private game parks. While they all place demands on land, they are not motivated by food security concerns. And the bulk of the evidence is that food-importing governments finance a relatively small share of land deals involving food production.

Further the book has an overall anti-business and anti-export crop tone. Although Pearce provides glimpses of positive impacts, 90% of the cases in this book dwell on the negative side--admittedly not hard to find.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Best book I know of on which countries are buying land in which other countries to try to survive Peak Oil, climate change, peak agriculture, and all the other ways Mother Nature is going to bite us in the future. But how long will they be able to hang on to the land as oil declines and supply chains break? You can't fight wars without oil-driven tanks, aircraft, trucks, and so on. Or fly/ship food back to your own nation during oil shocks, which will grow more and more frequent.
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Format: Hardcover
Fred Pearce sent me a review copy of his new book, The Land Grabbers: The New Fight over Who Owns the Earth, which I enjoyed very much for its detailed description of the pros and cons resulting from foreigners investing in land in developing countries.

In the book, Pearce appears to see more cons with land deals than I do. Perhaps that's because he saw only bad land deals, or perhaps he associates ALL large-scale agriculture with exploitation, inefficiency and environmental degradation. Any of you who read my paper ("The Political Economy of Land and Water Grabs")* will know that I am annoyed that we do not have a good definition of when a land deal is a "bad" grab or "good" foreign direct investment (FDI). Pearce appears to call ALL deals grabs, but I think there are many well-run, sustainable farming operations that produce profits for the farmer, good jobs for locals, and quality food for markets.

Anyway, here are my notes on the 300pp+ book, which has six parts and 27 chapters covering "grabs" from buy-side and sell-side locations in Europe, N and S America, Africa and SE Asia.

Many grabs convert "fallow" land to industrial-scale agriculture, but local communities often "cultivate" this land in long rotations of crops, grazing and recovery. Their methods are not just sustainable; they are cheaper and more productive for meeting a diverse range of local needs. Nomadic herders have practiced sustainable land management for centuries.

Such methods are also egalitarian. Poor farmers can eat, but poor urban residents will suffer from political corruption and/or favoritism.
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Format: Hardcover
In contrast to the above reviewer who thought the scholarship sloppy, I was highly impressed with the quality of the research and dizzying planetary travels. I won't go into the details of the subject matter since they were discussed by other reviewers. The endless listings of landgrabbing by the rich, of poorer countries' land, definitely makes for depressing reading though since it's the political equivalent of schoolyard bullying, with the strong taking from the weak, over and over again.
When I say the conclusion disappoints, I mean in the following way. As the environmental writer for The New Scientist, I would think Fred Pearce would incorporate the findings of climate change scientists into the assessments, but there is very little of this, probably since it wasn't really the focus of the book. But when discussing forests chopped down for pulp, it does matter greatly if a forest is expected to be gone due to increased temperatures, in 50 years, and what conditions will be like in areas of Africa, at this point, models are pretty consistent in forecasts of this kind. Instead of the obvious conclusion, that the rich countries taking land from the poor for food security is an added disaster for most of the world, added to the underlying problem of climate change, the conclusion states that the future looks positive because pastoralists and small farmers can feed the world better. What the--? Talk about dropping the ball. Once again, Malthus becomes the bogeyman in the final chapter, the risible predictions of malthusian disaster something to be clearly stated as impossible. Why is this? How does this conclusion follow in any way?
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