Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Review: EARTH WARS - The Battle for Global Resources

"If the Earth wars were a sporting contest, here's how the half-time score might stand at the beginning of 2012..."
Georff Hiscock concludes his near 300 pages factual account of who owns the world with a surprisingly relaxed "scoreboard":
  • 1st: USA 10 points
  • 2nd: China 8p
  • 3rd - 4th: Europe, Japan 6p
  • 5th - 6th: Russia, India 5p
  • 7th: Brazil 4p
  • 8th - 10th: Mexico, Canada, Australia 3p
  • 11th - 14th: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE 2p
  • 15th - 22nd: South Korea, Indonesia, South Africa, Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Central Asian republics, Mongolia 1p
  • Vietnam, Venezuela, Colombia, Chile and some African countries also in 1st division but still no points
EARTH WARS is a concise business report on the current deals in global energy and metals production as seen from down under. It also mentions the main water disputes but does not go into details on food production controversies. It is a treasure trove of information and numbers on especially Asian contracts but often the most important situations from other important continents such as South America or Africa are mentioned as after little more than afterthoughts at the end of chapters.

It's business report like writing is it's strength and it's weakness. The "bullshit factor" is one of the lowest I have ever seen. In many ways this book is just pure reporting. However, at times it is a tough read. And occasionally I wonder if I better run double checks on some numbers: Having been flipping through numerous skeptical blogs, articles and books earlier, I am of the impression that repository estimations and future extraction plans are not always that crystal clear. Did Hiscock leave out some valid doubts somewhere?

To get an impression of what the book offers you can look at the contents on page "v". Or you can take a glance at the 27 lists in it, because the chapters are very much structured as walk-throughs of those lists. So, "Exhibit 3.3" is a top ten of Russian oil and gas companies (no. 1 is Gazprom) - well that part of chapter three is an ordered sequence of paragraphs briefing on the owners, sizes and belongings of those companies. Pretty much.

One gem of the book is it's quite detailed second chapter on "geographical flashpoints". This chapter contained the bulk of the info I needed for my "contested resource territories" map published yesterday (take a look!).

The book hardly takes into account climate change. That may seem weird, but actually Hiscock barely bother predicting the future. Which is actually quite a relief. As such, it is fair enough not to mention projected environmental impacts decades into the future. The demand for renewable energy, however, is mentioned. Compared to the focus on the business as usual going on with fossil energy the demand for renewable energy looks depressingly weak.

If I had used it for my own book, it would certainly be on my list of recommended reading. It's not for everyone, though. Those other books are typically more into storytelling (like witnessing pollution in Nigeria or dictatorships in South America) or typical popular science (past societal collapses, influence of climate change on geopolitics). Normal books. Geoff Hiscock's book is a business book that doesn't dream and doesn't imagine anything.

Either way, there is absolutely no reason to doubt a fierce global business war is raging over our natural resources. That much is very clear after Hiscock's documentation. As documentation of this situation the book is a very valuable contribution. But it's not exactly edutainment.

 
Geoff Hiscock (2012): EARTH WARS - The Battle for Global Resources at Google Books, book website.


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