The Race for What's Left The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources

Michael T. Klare




Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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The world is facing an unprecedented crisis of resource depletion—a crisis that goes beyond "peak oil" to encompass shortages of coal and uranium, copper and lithium, water and arable land. With all of the planet's easily accessible resource deposits rapidly approaching exhaustion, the desperate hunt for supplies has become a frenzy of extreme exploration, as governments and corporations rush to stake their claim in areas previously considered too dangerous and remote. The Race for What's Left takes us from the Arctic to war zones to deep ocean floors, from a Russian submarine planting the country's flag on the North Pole seabed to the large-scale buying up of African farmland by Saudi Arabia, China, and other food-importing nations.
As Klare explains, this invasion of the final frontiers carries grave consequences. With resource extraction growing more complex, the environmental risks are becoming increasingly severe; the Deepwater Horizon disaster is only a preview of the dangers to come. At the same time, the intense search for dwindling supplies is igniting new border disputes, raising the likelihood of military confrontation. Inevitably, if the scouring of the globe continues on its present path, many key resources that modern industry relies upon will disappear completely. The only way out, Klare argues, is to alter our consumption patterns altogether—a crucial task that will be the greatest challenge of the coming century.


Praise for The Race for What's Left

"Reading this book, it's hard not to think about postapocalyptic fiction . . . Think Margaret Atwood, Cormac McCarthy, and, most recent, Suzanne Colllns's Hunger Games. Yet novelists often skip over the messy parts along the road to dystopia. It's scary to think that Klare, far from crying wolf, might be providing the sordid details in real time."—Science News

"In The Race for What's Left—a book displaying his stunning knowledge of drilling and mining techniques, obscure minerals, geology, and remote regions of the world—Klare argues that 'the world is entering an era of pervasive, unprecedented resource scarcity' . . . We must begin adapting to the limits of our resources, and Michael Klare's outstanding book—exhaustively-researched, beautifully-written, and convincingly-argued—helps move this vital project forward.."—Lawrence S. Wittner, History News Network

"A first-rate, well-researched wake-up call . . . Klare has identified the problem in vivid detail."—The Christian Science Monitor

"Outstanding . . . Exhaustively researched, beautifully written, and convincingly argued."—The Huffington Post

"In a sane world, we'd take the limits we are clearly reaching as a signal to reduce our fixation on growth and begin searching for new ways to live. Instead, as Michael Klare makes clear in this powerful book, the heads of our corporate empires have decided to rip apart the planet in one last burst of profiteering. If you want to understand the next decade, I fear you better read this book."—Bill McKibben, author of Eaarth

"If you think oil is the only major thing we're running short of, think again. Michael Klare has long been farsighted about the many hazards of a resource-hungry world, and this crisp, authoritative survey does more than just show what the other dangers are. It also feels like a guidebook to wars to come."—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold's Ghost

"Michael Klare has written a gripping account of the world's great resource grab and its terrifying implications for the planet. Fortunately, he doesn't stop there but offers the world a way out through a ‘race to adapt.' A must read for anyone who wants to understand not only the challenge of our diminishing resources but also what we can do about it."—Elizabeth C. Economy, author of The River Runs Black

"Michael Klare is like a beacon shining into the dark and scary wilderness that our future has become. This is an indispensable book for anyone who wants to understand what reality requires of us in the years ahead."—James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency

"If Michael Klare cared more about his wallet than about humanity's welfare, he could have spent his career earning gazillions as a global trends adviser for Wall Street. Luckily for the rest of us, he chose people over profit. Now, for the mere price of a book, we all can benefit from Klare's razor-sharp analysis of where the world is heading—and how we can still change course."—Mark Hertsgaard, author of Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth

"Michael Klare has done it again. In clear and compelling prose, The Race for What's Left shows how resource depletion is accelerating even more rapidly than originally suspected and how competition for scarce resources has intensified. The potential for conflict and environmental catastrophe is frightening. This book is vital for understanding the crossroads we face: either develop green technologies now or fight another round of devastating resource wars. Our future depends upon the choices we make right now."—Terry Lynn Karl, author of The Paradox of Plenty

"A reasoned discussion exploring a chilling phenomenon: the increasingly competitive and potentially dangerous rivalry for Earth's diminishing natural resources. Though empires and countries have always harvested the resources necessary for their survival, writes Nation defense correspondent Klare, the world now faces an unprecedented combination of factors, a perfect storm made up of 'a lack of any unexplored resource preserves beyond those now being eyed for development; the sudden emergence of rapacious new consumers; technical and environmental limitations on the exploitation of new deposits; and the devastating effects of climate change.' The author touches on the discovery of the mammoth deposits of oil, copper, gold, natural gas and other key minerals made after World War II, which fueled prosperity for decades. However, in 2011 many of these commodities have passed their peak, and corporations and governments must now venture into 'previously inaccessible or inhospitable areas.' Klare deftly describes the complex and questionable methods required for acquiring these resources, including deep offshore drilling and hydraulic fracturing ('fracking'). The author devotes one chapter to the 'land-buying sprees' now occurring around the globe. Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea and the United States are buying up land in other countries in order to secure a stable food supply for their citizens—often at the expense of the supplying country. In Ethiopia, plots of land owned by Saudi Arabia have become 'high-tech plantations set in the middle of a country where farming is still conducted with sickles and ox-drawn plows, and where millions suffer from chronic malnutrition' . . . The book is a provocative, important addition to the literature of resource issues."—Kirkus Reviews

"In this meticulously researched account of the coming shortage of natural resources, journalist Klare describes the impact this scarcity will have on the future of the human race. In levelheaded prose, he tells how a rising need for fuel, industrial metals, minerals, and farmland will create a dearth with global environmental, political, and financial implications. Even now, tensions are simmering, with governments skirmishing and large corporations ruthlessly competing for control over dwindling reserves. Moving through the catalogue of precious materials, Klare summarizes the extreme explorations that have already begun, from the Arctic to the Sahara and the dark canyons at the bottom of the ocean. As accessible sources are depleted and more risky endeavors become the only way satisfy demand, devastating catastrophes like the explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon rig will only multiply. But an aggressive race for what's left isn't a long-term strategy, Klare reminds us. What's needed is a 'race to adapt'—an attempt to find a sustainable approach to extraction and consumption that will benefit us all."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

Chapter One
Driven by Depletion

In 1971, a Mexican fisherman named Rudesino Cantarell encountered an annoying problem while plying his trade off the Yucatán Peninsula: clots of oil, apparently seeping from underground seams...

Read the full excerpt


  • Michael T. Klare

  • Michael T. Klare is the author of fourteen books, including Resource Wars and Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. A contributor to Current History, Foreign Affairs, and the Los Angeles Times, he is the defense correspondent for The Nation and the director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

  • Michael Klare Ellen Augarten


    Michael Klare

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