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A Reader's Guide to the Land Grabbers by Fred Pearce

A Reader's Guide to the Land Grabbers by Fred Pearce

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Published by Beacon Press

A reader's guide to The Land Grabbers by Fred Pearce is how Wall Street, Chinese billionaires, oil sheikhs, 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.

A reader's guide to The Land Grabbers by Fred Pearce is how Wall Street, Chinese billionaires, oil sheikhs, 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.

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Published by: Beacon Press on Nov 29, 2012
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Beacon Press Reader’s Guide
THE LAND GRABBERSThe New Fight overWho Owns the Earth
Fred Pearce
Contents
 
About the Book
 
Praise
 
About the Author
 
Questions for DiscussionAbout the Book
An unprecedented land grab is taking place around the world. Fearing future foodshortages or eager to profit from them, the world's wealthiest and most acquisitivecountries, corporations, and individuals have been buying and leasing vast tracts of landaround the world. The scale is astounding: parcels the size of small countries are beinggobbled 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 Pearcespent a year circling the globe to find out who was doing the buying, whose land wasbeing 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 costsof the land grab, one of the most profound ethical, environmental, and economic issuesfacing the globalized world in the twenty-first century. The corporations, speculators, andgovernments scooping up land cheap in the developing world claim that industrial-scalefarming will help local economies. But Pearce's research reveals a far more troublingreality. While some mega-farms are ethically run, all too often poor farmers and cattleherders are evicted from ancestral lands or cut off from water sources. The good jobspromised by foreign capitalists and home governments alike fail to materialize. Hungrynations are being forced to export their food to the wealthy, and corporate potentates runfiefdoms oblivious to the country beyond their fences.
 
 Pearce's story is populated with larger-than-life characters, from financier George Sorosand industry tycoon Richard Branson, to Gulf state sheikhs, Russian oligarchs, Britishbarons, and Burmese generals. We discover why Goldman Sachs is buying up theChinese poultry industry, what Lord Rothschild and a legendary 1970s asset-stripper aredoing 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, victimizedfirst by the Khmer Rouge and now by crony capitalism, to African pastoralists confinedto ever-smaller tracts.Over the next few decades, land grabbing may matter more, to more of the planet'speople, than even climate change. It will affect who eats and who does not, who getsricher and who gets poorer, and whether agrarian societies can exist outside corporatecontrol. It is the new battle over who owns the planet.
Praise for
The Land Grabbers
 Pearce’s provokingly fascinating exposé raises complex and urgent issues.”—
 Booklist 
A well-researched, informative and accessible look at important economic andagricultural issues.”—
Kirkus Reviews
 This is just what the world has been waiting for—a detailed overview of the land grabsthat 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 vastlyimportant new terrain few of us have even noticed. When the rich and powerful startbuying up the planet's fundamental resources—land and water—from the poor andvulnerable, 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 toSustainability
 “Wherever on this earth poor villagers, agribusiness magnates, ignorant or corruptgovernments, petrodollars, commodity traders and hungry multitudes come together, FredPearce is at the nexus, brilliantly reporting on the biggest swindle of the 21st century.With the modern landgrab, the enclosure movement has attained planetary proportionsand Pearce is without peer in describing the dire consequences of this ongoing human andenvironmental disaster.”—Susan George, author,
 Hijacking America,
board president, theTransnational Institute"Pearce may be the only person to visit all the critical frontlines worldwide, and hisbrilliant reporting makes the abstraction real. Probably the most important environmentalbook anyone could read right now.”—Timothy Searchinger, fellow, German MarshallFund; research scholar, Princeton University
 
 
About the Author
 Fred Pearce is an award-winning former news editor at New Scientist. Currently itsenvironmental and development consultant, he has also written for Audubon, PopularScience, Time, the Boston Globe, and Natural History and writes a regular column for theGuardian. He has been honored as UK environmental journalist of the year, among otherawards. His many books include
When the Rivers Run Dry
,
With Speed and Violence
,
Confessions of an Eco-Sinner 
, and
The Coming Population Crash
.
Questions for DiscussionChapter 1
 
Gambella, Ethiopia: Tragedy in the Commons
 Referring to westerners who buy land in Africa, Fred Pearce writes, “The question iswhether the new colonialists are there to develop Africa or ransack its resources. Willthey feed the world—or just the bottom line?” Do you think any of the land grabbers areinvested in helping the African people? Is it possible for them to make a positive impact?Why or why not?Pearce writes, “The land is our supermarket and our grain reserve.” In what ways has oursociety become distanced from this concept? How does that distance hurt our relationshipwith other societies and with the environment?
Chapter 2
 
Chicago, U.S.A.: The Price of Food
 In this chapter, Pearce writes, “Speculators are no longer oiling the wheels of the globalfood supply engine. They are in charge of a runaway train.” Were you surprised to learnhow market speculation may have impacted the world food supply? Can you think of aviable solution to this problem?
Chapter 3
 
Saudi Arabia: Ploughing in the Petrodollars
 Some nations, like Saudi Arabia, engage in land-grabbing in order to prevent a foodshortage. Are their fears of foreign dependence justified? How else could their needs beaddressed?
Chapter 4
 
South Sudan: Up the Nile with the Capitalists of Chaos
 Chapter 4 highlights the vague and confusing terms in which land-grab deals are oftenphrased. How do these vagaries and loopholes benefit the “capitalists of chaos”?

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