We want it to provide us food, fuel, paper, cotton, and still expect it to allow us to continue living in the comfortable climate we’ve grown adapted to. What am I talking about? Planet Earth, of course. But human ecologist and economist Kenneth Hermele from Lund University in Sweden believes that the struggle for land is intensifying rapidly.
Hermele will be defending his thesis at Lund University this coming Saturday, in which he demonstrates the land grab is not only rearing it’s ugly head again, but doing so in dramatic fashion. “Land-hungry actors – spanning the whole spectrum from countries to companies to pension funds to pure speculators – invest in land in developing countries,” he says.
“Even in a huge country like Brazil, there is not enough land to grow biofuels, food and cattle fodder without negatively impacting on the climate and biodiversity,” he adds, speaking from experience, having conducted field studies in Brazil where sugar cane has been cultivated for biofuel for 40 years.
And while biofuels aren’t grown in the forests themselves, sugar cane cultivation replaces other crops like soya, which in turns expands onto grazing land which in turn forces cattle ranches to find new places to graze their cattle.
Places like the Amazon Rainforest.
“In Brazil, cattle ranchers are often singled out as the villains of the piece because it is they who burn down the rainforest to provide grazing for their cattle. In actual fact, their actions are merely a consequence of the increase in cultivation of sugar cane and soya on land that was previously used for cattle farming”, explains Hermele.
It isn’t just the traditional land grab that is the problem either. Competition for arable land anywhere is intensifying greatly. Rich countries take control in poor countries by trading and unequal exchange of ecological resources, often outsourcing their polluting industries and dumping of environmentally hazardous waste along the way.