Resource Races: Michael T. Klare's the Race for What's Left

By Wu, Bob | Harvard International Review, Fall 2012 | Go to article overview

Resource Races: Michael T. Klare's the Race for What's Left


Wu, Bob, Harvard International Review


The exhaustion of natural reserves will lead to new hazards and unanticipated consequences. In The Race fir What's Left: The Global Scramble fir the World's Last Resources, Michael T. Klare envisages a world in which the term "peak soil" becomes as common as "peak oil." Casting contemporary foreign purchases of African farmland as "land grabs," Klare predicts the "New Scramble for Africa," an era of intense global competition for agricultural territory that evokes the conflicts of colonial expansion. Klare questions the sustainability of a system in which food produced in developing nations is flown to the developed world, completely bypassing some of the "hungriest places on the planet."

Writing with force and clarity, Klare journeys from the depths of the Arctic Sea to the barren Sahara. He utilizes a case study methodology to provide concrete illustrations of the broader issues at stake. Through the image of a "mini-submarine plant[ing] a titanium replica of the Russian flag on the seabed," Klare conveys the extreme measures that arise from intense international competition and elucidates otherwise theoretical claims of territorial sovereignty. This book is accessible to both academia and the reading public; it provides a wealth of information but still manages to retain a cogent focus on the bigger picture.

In his book, mare warns that the world must confront a new global paradigm of rapidly diminishing and ultimately exhaustible resources. Imagining a world depleted of the basic resources--oil, gas, and minerals--that drive so much of global industry, Klare conveys the devastating environmental, economic, and political effects caused by the drive to "gain control over whatever remains of the world's raw materials base."

If Klare is correct, the world is already in the throes of a covert race, a race that fosters global rivalry and precipitates a new and dangerous form of international competition. Though the signs may not be apparent at first, "the race for what's left" has already commenced in earnest. For example, Canada, Russia, and the United States are conducting geological research to prove the extent of their continental shelves in an attempt to secure territorial control of "some of the world's largest untapped reserves of oil and natural gas" in the Arctic. Klare makes very clear that the consequences of this competition are significant; he argues that "at stake in this contest is the continuation of the Industrial Age." For Klare, this is not merely a question of gas prices or sovereign wealth, but rather a phenomenon that will shape the course of history. …

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Resource Races: Michael T. Klare's the Race for What's Left
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