LandRush is an artistic exploration of the social and environmental impact of large-scale agro-investments on rural economies and land rights, the boom of renewable fuels, the reallocation of land, and the future of agriculture around the world. In a series of documentary films, an interactive iPad App and spacial installations the project questions what constitutes modern agriculture.
Today land use and agricultural practices rival climate change as a global environmental threat. Agriculture is using 40 percent of all the land on earth, and more than 70 percent of all human consumed water, drying up riverbeds and draining aquifers. Fertilizer runoffs from industrial farming operations are destroying the ecosystems of rivers and coastal regions, while deforestation and the transformation of grassland into farmland cause soil erosion and a loss of biospheres and biodiversity.
In 2008 violent protest broke out in more than two dozen countries. In the three years prior to that prices for wheat and corn had doubled, while the price of rice had increased threefold. By the end of 2010 prices were again on the rise. The governments of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya were toppled; riots broke out in Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria. Contrary to food crises in previous decades, these increases were not due to short-term crop failures. Rather, they are a symptom of a daunting, long-term challenge:
Since the beginning of the century, in most years the world has consumed more cereal than it has produced—despite record crops. Food production cannot keep up with the growth of the world’s population and the changing dietary habits of the new middle classes in emerging countries. Furthermore food competes with energy production for acreage and water resources. With crop failures becoming more frequent due to climate change, groundwater levels dropping, soils depleting, and the increase in productivity of most crop plants sinking, the question is:
How can we feed the world without trashing it?
Since 2011 we documented neocolonial land grabbing in Ethiopia, industrial mega-farms in Brazil, family farms thriving due to ethanol production in Iowa and the multiyear drought in California’s Central Valley. Currently we are researching organic farming and land use politics in Eastern Germany and water policies in the Colorado water shed.
LandRush grows organically chapter by chapter in a constant cycle of research, production and presentation. Each chapter is a complete story for the moment, but can be revisited once situations change. So by its very design LandRush is and stays in a constant Beta. This open process allows our work to surface in ever-new contexts, gradually building a bridge between magazine journalism, web documentaries, interactive apps and spacial installations, where the storytelling transfers from the context of journalism into the space of art.