The Land Grabbers

ISBN 13: 9780807003244
Published: 2012
Pages: 336
Cost: $11.45
Rating (1-5): 5
Reviewed By: Fribourg, Henry A.

The Land Grabbers tells about massive land purchases regardless of consequences for the world and its inhabitants.

Every educator and researcher in agricultural and social sciences should read this new book by Fred Pearce, an award-winning veteran science writer, and environmental and development consultant for the New Scientist, who has written four other books as well as for Natural History and Time. He traveled extensively throughout the world, in rural and less-developed areas, when doing thorough research for this exposé. The Land Grabbers presents a detailed overview of many unprecedented land purchases, leases and transformations taking place throughout the planet; few of us have noticed. When the rich and powerful buy huge amounts of land and water from the poor and vulnerable, unmindful of consequences for the world, its populations and ecosystems, thoughtful persons must consider eventual actions.

Dozens of these buyers want the biggest profit in the shortest time - holding on to millions of hectares for speculation, food , biofuel, or timber crops, sugarcane, palm oil - in  large mechanized operations, while given free access to surface and ground water, subsidies, tax write-offs, and infrastructure incentives for misguided “development”. A minority wants to help feed poor landholders, protect land from waste and wildlife poachers, maintain wilderness, or create hunting and tourism businesses.

Many of these investments are for “empty” land currently used and managed well as commons by indigenous people;  most investors require that the land be cleared of people, regardless of the fact that they have lived, managed the land and water, and fed themselves for many generations – without documented title to the land. Profound human, environmental, and economic issues arise, even when managers and owners believe they are “doing good”: (1) Should efficient massive production of food, fiber and fuel at great profit take immediate precedence over the long-term well-being and economic freedom of millions who may be much less happy in a “modernized” environment than they are now? (2) Should a billion or more poor farmers or nomadic cattle herders be evicted from ancestral territories, cut off from water sources, or become dependent on uncertain low-paying day-jobs? or (3) Even though intensive monoculture over large areas using modern technology is clearly an efficient method for planetary food production, are there areas where indigenous cultures should be encouraged to continue for those millions that would be dispossessed of all the land and water on the earth? The author provides many examples from over two dozen countries and pinpoints personalities or entities involved, such as Goldman Sachs, George Soros, Richard Branson, and Gulf state oligarchs.

Every educator and researcher in agricultural, environmental and social sciences: this land seizure may be shortly as important an issue for millions of the planet’s inhabitants as climate change: it will determine who eats and who starves, who prospers and who sinks into poorer conditions. Can agrarian societies co-exist with efficient, profitable corporate megafarms? This new battle over who owns the planet needs concerted attention by the best of our scientists and educators, their students, administrators, and supporters. Just maybe, these land investments can be turned into a good thing for the long run for lots of people.