Green grabbing or green colonialism is the foreign land grabbing and appropriation of resources for environmental purposes,[1] resulting in a pattern of unjust development.[2] The purposes of green grabbing are varied; it can be done for ecotourism, conservation of biodiversity or ecosystem services, for carbon emission trading, or for biofuel production. It involves governments, NGOs, and corporations, often working in alliances. Green grabs can result in local residents' displacement from land where they live or make their livelihoods. It is considered to be a subtype of green imperialism.[3]

Definition and purpose

"Green grabbing" was first coined in 2008 by journalist John Vidal, in a piece that appeared in The Guardian called "The great green land grab".[1] Social anthropologist Melissa Leach notes that it "builds on well-known histories of colonial and neo-colonial resource alienation in the name of the environment".[4] Green grabbing is a more specific form of land grabbing, in which the motive of the land grab is for environmental reasons.[1] Green grabbing can be done for conservation of biodiversity or ecosystem services, carbon emission trading, or for ecotourism.[2][5] Conservation groups might encourage members of the public to donate money to "adopt" an acre of land, which goes towards land acquisition. Companies who engage in carbon emission trading might employ a green grab to plant trees—the resulting carbon offset can then be sold or traded.[4] One program, Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), compensates companies and countries for conserving forests, though the definition of forest also includes forest plantations consisting of a single tree species (monoculture).[6]

Green grabbing can also be done for the production of biofuels. Biofuel production efforts, led by the US and European Union, have been a main driver of land grabbing in general. The International Land Coalition states that 59% of land grabs between 2000 and 2010 were because of biofuels.[6]


Indebted governments may be especially vulnerable to green grabs, as they may agree to privatize and sell public assets to avoid bankruptcy.[1][7] Green grabs involve large tracts of land consisting of thousands or millions of hectares.[1][8] Green grabs have occurred in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.[1][9] Environmental activists and critics have also warned that the Green New Deal[10][11] and COP26[12][13] could exacerbate green colonialism.

The indigenous Sámi community of northern Scandinavia, as well as Norwegian and Swedish activists, have accused the Norwegian government of green colonialism because of the construction of wind farms on Sámi land.[14][15]


Modern green grabs are often enacted through alliances between national elites, government agencies, and private actors. Examples can include international environmental policy institutions, multi-national corporations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). These varied actors align to achieve common goals; for example, ecotourism initiatives can result in the alignment of tourism companies, conservation groups, and governments. Conservation groups can also align with military or paramilitary groups to accomplish shared aims. Actors can also include entrepreneurs trying to profit from eco-capitalism, such as companies developing forest carbon offset projects, biochar companies, and pharmaceutical businesses.[1]


Green grabbing can result in the expulsion of indigenous or peasant communities from the land they live on.[9] In other cases, the use, authority, and management of the resources is restructured, potentially alienating local residents.[4] Evictions due to palm oil biofuel has resulted in the displacement of millions of people in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, and India.[6] The practice has been criticized in Brazil, where the government referred to one land acquisition NGO as eco-colonialist.[16] A shaman of the Yanomami tribe published a statement through Survival International saying, "Now you want to buy pieces of rainforest, or to plant biofuels. These are useless. The forest cannot be bought; it is our life and we have always protected it. Without the forest, there is only sickness."[17] The head of the Forest Peoples Programme Simon Colchester said, "Conservation has immeasurably worsened the lives of indigenous peoples throughout Africa," noting that it resulted in forced expulsion, loss of livelihoods, and violation of human rights.[16]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Fairhead, James; Leach, Melissa; Scoones, Ian (2012). "Green Grabbing: A new appropriation of nature?". Journal of Peasant Studies. 39 (2): 237–261. doi:10.1080/03066150.2012.671770. S2CID 115133230.
  2. ^ a b Iskander, Natasha N.; Lowe, Nichola (2020). "Climate Change and Work: Politics and Power". Annual Review of Political Science. 23: 111–131. doi:10.1146/annurev-polisci-061418-095236.
  3. ^ "Ron Arnold: Green-grabbing for carbon 'offsets' takes toll on Africans". Washington Examiner. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 30 April 2023.
  4. ^ a b c Leach, Melissa (20 June 2012). "The dark side of the green economy: 'Green grabbing'". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  5. ^ Corson, Catherine; MacDonald, Kenneth Iain (2012). "Enclosing the global commons: The convention on biological diversity and green grabbing". Journal of Peasant Studies. 39 (2): 263–283. doi:10.1080/03066150.2012.664138. S2CID 153985368.
  6. ^ a b c Vigil, Sara (2018). "Green grabbing-induced displacement". In McLeman, Robert; Gemenne, François (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Environmental Displacement and Migration. Routledge. pp. 370–381. ISBN 9781317272250.
  7. ^ Weeber, Stan (2016-10-31). "Nodes of resistance to green grabbing: a political ecology". Environment and Social Psychology. 1 (2). doi:10.18063/ESP.2016.02.006. ISSN 2424-8975.
  8. ^ Scheidel, Arnim; Work, Courtney (2018). "Forest plantations and climate change discourses: New powers of 'green' grabbing in Cambodia". Land Use Policy. 77: 9–18. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.04.057. S2CID 158227726.
  9. ^ a b Rocheleau, Dianne E. (2015). "Networked, rooted and territorial: Green grabbing and resistance in Chiapas". The Journal of Peasant Studies. 42 (3–4): 695–723. doi:10.1080/03066150.2014.993622. S2CID 154521594.
  10. ^ Douo, Myriam (2021-06-23). "Climate colonialism and the EU's Green Deal". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 2021-12-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Táíwò, Olúfẹ́mi O. (2019-02-25). "How a Green New Deal could exploit developing countries". The Conversation. Retrieved 2021-12-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  12. ^ Nguyen, Le Dong Hai (2021-11-27). "California's carbon-offset disaster reveals why COP26 was a big disappointment". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2021-12-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Lakhani, Nina (2021-11-03). "'A continuation of colonialism': indigenous activists say their voices are missing at Cop26". The Guardian. Retrieved 2021-12-04.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ Milne, Richard (27 February 2023). "Greta Thunberg accuses Norway of 'green colonialism' over wind farm". Financial Times. Retrieved 2023-07-24.
  15. ^ "'Green' colonialism is ruining Indigenous lives in Norway". Aljazeera English. Retrieved 2023-07-24.
  16. ^ a b Vidal, John (13 February 2008). "The great green land grab". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 August 2020.
  17. ^ Jowett, Juliette (14 October 2007). "Amazon tribe hits back at green 'colonialism'". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 October 2020.