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Science, People & Politics, issue 4 (Oct.-Dec.), VIII (2012).

Buyer beware: biodiversity, food, pensions, hedge funds and trade.
By Helen Gavaghan

The Land Grabbers, The new fight over who owns the Earth.
by Fred Pearce
Hardback. Beacon Press. Boston. Paperback to be published March 2013.


"It was hard to believe, as I sipped a glass of wine and tucked into a steak in front of the pool, while a light plane landed behind me on the farm airstrip. But a quarter of a century ago, all the land around me had been Brazilian badlands. A wild west, where men on horses staged gun battles on empty grassland they could buy for the price of a packet of cigarettes. "
The Land Grabbers. Opening paragraph to the chapter on Brazil*.


Fred Pearce is a fellow of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. The Princess Royal herself conferred the honour earlier this year. Pearce earned his plaudit. To write The Land Grabbers Fred Pearce quartered the globe. The countries he visited were not selected by academic hypotheses or investigation into corporate malpractice. Pearce is not qualified to undertake the latter. Rather, he told me, he reads Google Scholar when wanting a quick lowdown on what academics might be writing about geography. And, as his co-director, before he chose to resign, and now as his fellow shareholder in the company owning Science, People & Politics, I know for a fact he is not expert in Company Law.

Pearce is an environmental journalist. He pursued leads he found interesting. That is how journalists think, and is what I think drives explorers.

Dispossession of the original inhabitants of land, often without regard to their needs, their history, or cultural identity is a recurring theme in The Land Grabbers. Take the Brazilian cerrado, savannah converted now in large part to monoculture agriculture. There, he reports, native groups the Tupi, Cariris, Xavante and Botocudos have been moved onto small reservations and isolated from their original hunting ground.

One investor tried, by commissioning an anthropological study, to understand the needs of such indigenous peoples who had lived on land he farms. I would be fascinated to see that report published. The farmer/investor who commissioned the work might find an explanation and critique of the anthropology helpful. Later, Pearce observed in western Bahia the Brazilian counterpart of being born on the wrong side of the track, where wealth and "starred hotels" face "booze joints" and brothels. At least there was a bus station, from which one could travel to most parts of Brazil. Sadly, Pearce also had debt bondage to report.


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*This review was accepted for publication by deputy editor, Martin Redfern, on 10th November, 2012. It was filed 6th November, 2012, and it is based on a pre-publication pdf of the hardback of The Land Grabbers. Prepublication 13th November, 2012. Final publication of text on 14th November, 2012 at 22.22 GMT. Keyword: Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Land, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Land, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Agribusiness, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Commodities, Biodiversity, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade.

Science, People & Politics© issn:1751-598x (online), all rights reserved.
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