Science, People & Politics: eCOVER | This issue

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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.

So I'll try my hand as critic. This is a book with an eclectic choice of chapters. The politics and context of each chapter, their back stories are, I think, too varied in history, geography and cultural groupings, for land grabbing itself, or land grabbers to be the sole editorial glue, or sole dominant reason for what he is writing about. Pearce reports the land grab and identifies the global sub themes: losses of biodiversity, waste or mismanagement of natural resources, loss of culturally distinct groups, and the construction of economic and agronomic groupings that are unviable. But. . . Something niggled and tugged at my mind. I was missing something.

As I read the Brazil chapter, and the whole book, it was not clear to me whether lack of appropriate expertise and education was leading good intentions astray. Or whether a greater strategy of considerable competence for avoidance of war and furthering the well being of future generations was, in some countries, sacrificing the autonomy and choices of the current generation, individuals and individual cultural groups for the future. I particularly wondered that when I read the chapters about Liberia. And I wondered, sometimes, if I was reading stories of rampant, sub rosa abuse. Enter, I hope, the historians, or the corrupt practice lawyers. History helps identify the time, place, nature and cause of historical problems with present relevance, enabling clarification of legal and political issues so that we can move forward with some semblance of harmony. In the case of clear wrong without mitigation, the lawyers facilitate the process.

The stories in this book are culled from around the world. Ukraine, Paraguay, Mali, Liberia, South Africa, Brazil - as we have seen -, USA, Cambodia, to name but a few. Fluently written, such that I thought sometimes Pearce was trying out for a future career travel writing. But no. Pearce is not Bruce Chatwin manqué. I suspect he is toying with his reader. Not disrespectfully, but inviting an urgent application of compassionately guided cortex. Prodding more subtly than he realises himself. That is my impressionistic response to the book.

From Brazil, Pearce travelled to Paraguay.

Here is another taster to tempt you to buy the book.

"Our six-seater Cessna took off at dawn from Asuncíon, the capital of Paraguay. Stretching north and west for 600 miles was a plain as flat as a table-top, covered in dense thorn forest, some of it only ever penetrated by local indigenous tribes. The Paraguayan Chaco is the last great wilderness in South America. If you have never heard of it, you won't be alone. Despite occupying almost two-thirds of the country, it is terra incognita even to most Paraguayans. I had come across the border from Brazil to see where Brazilian ranchers are going now that expansion in the Amazon is frowned on and they are being priced out of the cerrado by the soy boom."
The opening paragraph in the chapter on Paraguay.


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Keywords:Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Land, Dispossession, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Trade, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Land, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Title, Trade, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Land, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity, Agribusiness, Commodities, Biodiversity.

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