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


The Land Grabbers: The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

“Raises complex and urgent issues.”—Booklist, starred review

How Wall Street, Chinese billionaires, oil sheiks, and agribusiness are buying up huge tracts of land in a hungry, crowded world.

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.

From the Hardcover edition.



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. 


From the Hardcover edition.

Table of Contents


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


Chapter 10 Western Bahia, Brazil


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


Product Details

Pearce, Fred
Beacon Press (MA)
Environmental Studies-Environment
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
9 x 5.99 x 0.93 in 1.1 lb

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Related Subjects

Business » Business Plans
Business » Real Estate
Business » Strategy
History and Social Science » Geography » General
History and Social Science » Social Science » Developing Countries
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment

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