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Land Matters : Agrofuels, Unequal Exchange, and Appropriation of Ecological Space


  • Kenneth Hermele

Summary, in English

As a global society we are entering an era where land areas and land-based resources are coming to the fore once again for capital accumulation and economic growth, for the first time since the end of the 18th century when Malthus forecasted a contradiction between population growth and agricultural output. That constraint on economic growth, imposed by limited land areas, was overcome by the combination of fossil fuels (coal, oil) and appropriation of space overseas (colonialism, trade).

Today we are entering a period of peak oil, and this restraint on growth is accompanied by the recognition that mitigating climate change requires a veto on the use of other fossil fuels as well as on further deforestation; thus peak oil co-exists with peak soil, at least this is the assumption on which I build my argument.

Agrofuels cannot - not even in Brazil, my case study - help but intensify this conflict as each increase in land use has a tendency to lead to direct and indirect land use changes in the global system.

The centrality of land areas and land-based resources results in a systematic appropriation of ecological space by the Centre from the Periphery, resulting in an unequal exchange of ecological resources, and a displacement of ecological loads from the Centre to the Periphery. In this way, the colonial pattern of appropriation of land areas is replicated today. At the same time, new powerful actors are entering the global scene, and Europe, Japan and USA now compete with China, South Korea and India for the limited land areas available.

Conflicts over land-areas and land-based resources are what the future most likely holds in store, both in the form of resource wars, and in the shape of land grabbing. Thus I postulate a new agro-regime,where the appropriation of fungible land-areas for the production of food, feed, fibres and fuels, as well as for the mitigation of climate change, are highly conflictual processes.


Publishing year





Lund Studies in Human Ecology



Document type



Human Ecology Division, Lund University


  • Social and Economic Geography


  • Land
  • Agrofuels
  • Ecologically unequal exchange
  • Environmental load displacement
  • Land grabbing
  • Malthus
  • Brazil
  • Ethanol
  • Resource wars
  • Land Use change
  • Indirect land use change





  • ISSN: 1403-5022
  • ISBN: 978-91-7473-349-5

Defence date

22 September 2012

Defence time


Defence place

Världen, Geocentrum I, Sölvegatan 10, Lund


  • Inge Röpke (Professor)