The Land Grabbers

The Land Grabbers

The New Fight Over Who Owns the Earth

Book - 2012
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Random House, Inc.

“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.

Baker & Taylor
The Land Grabbers is a first-of-its-kind exposé that reveals the unprecedented land grab taking place around the world. Corporate and governmental promises about the benefits of development, Pearce shows us, are often illusory, masking environmental and social destruction and the massive transfer of wealth out of host countries. This is investigative journalism at its best, taking the reader beyond the abstract claims in corporate reports to shed light on the human realities that underlie the land grab.

Book News
Experienced ecological journalist Fred Pearce documents vast illegal and quasi-legal international land sales. The scale and grotesqueness of the land-theft situations he encounters is staggering. Though the book is packaged to preach to the choir, its style is journalistic and based on extensive investigative research. In a globetrotting book, Pearce sometimes relies on the reader to understand situations behind the facts on the ground. Experienced readers will understand relationships between the dilemmas of African ecotourism, national management of wildlife refuges in inhabited areas, and corrupt billionaires carving out fiefdoms from which to steal resources, for instance. While chapters focus on Brazillian land theft in South America and Chinese land theft in Asia, most of the book is about land theft in Africa by groups from the US, Europe, Russia, and oil-producing Arab nations. Between the lines, a picture of land grabs emerges: systems that depend on writing encounter oral cultures with land. Local people have no documents of ownership of public lands, and profiteers and con artists converge from all sides. Pierce focuses on international "investors" or "saviors" who make short-term private profits by taking over farmland and destroying public wild lands in developing countries. Readers in industrialized countries may recognize similar situations domestically with traditional and public lands. The book ends by opposing the biofuels industry and supporting the practicality of subsistence farming. Annotation ©2012 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

& Taylor

Reveals the land grab taking place around the world and how corporate and governmental promises about the benefits of development are masking environmental and social destruction and the transfer of wealth out of host countries.

Publisher: Boston : Beacon Press, c2012
ISBN: 9780807003244
Branch Call Number: 333.3 PEA
Characteristics: x, 326 p. :,maps ;,24 cm.


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Oct 09, 2014

Superlatively researched book, naming the names of those hedge funds/private equity firms and financiers involved with gobbling land holdings the world over. Again, this author, as others, mentions Armajaro Holdings and the fellow who runs it, responsible for cornering the chocolate market - - but fails to mention that Armajaro Holdings and Ward made $40 million because the price went up directly tied to the political/civil problems in the Ivory Coast! [When banks/hedge funds do suspicious investments, there's usually a backstory.] Fortunately, the author does explain those International Investment Agreements (IIA) which gives priority access to the hedge fund/investment vehicle to water over the people and citizenry of the country - - obviously, money changes hands! I agree with the previous comment about organization, but the research overall was top drawer!

Jun 18, 2013

An eye opening view of world real estate deals. It shows the legacy of colonialism while showing you how the game has changed by oligarchs from emerging nations and corporate profits. It paints a picture of governments painfully aware that food security is going to be a problem. The author has done extensive research for this book and is a good storyteller. The only reason I didn't give it higher marks was because the organization of his data did not work for me. I would also have preferred some graph or table data to go along with his analysis.

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