The exhaustion of natural reserves will lead to new hazards and unanticipated consequences. In The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources, Michael T. Klare envisages a world in which the term “peak soil” becomes as common as “peak oil.” Casting contemporary foreign purchases of African farmland as “land grabs,” Klare predicts the “New Scramble for Africa,” an era of intense global competition for agricultural territory that evokes the conflicts of colonial expansion. Klare questions the sustainability of a system in which food produced in developing nations is flown to the developed world, completely bypassing some of the “hungriest places on the planet.”

Writing with force and clarity, Klare journeys from the depths of the Arctic Sea to the barren Sahara. He utilizes a case study methodology to provide concrete illustrations of the broader issues at stake. Through the image of a “mini-submarine plant[ing] a titanium replica of the Russian flag on the seabed,” Klare conveys the extreme measures that arise from intense international competition and elucidates otherwise theoretical claims of territorial sovereignty. This book is accessible to both academia and the reading public; it provides a wealth of information but still manages to retain a cogent focus on the bigger picture.

In his book, Klare warns that the world must confront a new global paradigm of rapidly diminishing and ultimately exhaustible resources. Imagining a world depleted of the basic resources—oil, gas, and minerals—that drive so much of global industry, Klare conveys the devastating environmental, economic, and political effects caused by the drive to “gain control over whatever remains of the world’s raw materials base.”

If Klare is correct, the world is already in the of a covert race, a race that fosters global rivalry and precipitates a new and dangerous form of international competition. Though the signs may not be apparent at first, “the race for what’s left” has already commenced in earnest. For example, Canada, Russia, and the United States are conducting geological research to prove the extent of their continental shelves in an attempt to secure territorial control of “some of the world’s largest untapped reserves of oil and natural gas” in the Arctic. Klare makes very clear that the consequences of this competition are significant; he argues that “at stake in this contest is the continuation of the Industrial Age.” For Klare, this is not merely a question of gas prices or sovereign wealth, but rather a phenomenon that will shape the course of history.

Klare successfully constructs an outline of the diverse domains that are implicated in “the race for what’s left.” His detailed account inevitably pushes the reader to seek a possible remedy. To this end, Klare presents a drive to sustainable processes and resources in a progression he fittingly labels the “race to adapt.” He envisages this as “a contest to become among the first to adopt new materials, methods and devices that will free the world from its dependence on finite resource supplies.” Klare even goes as far as to suggest that this race has already begun, using evidence of China’s new Renewable Energy Law: “15 percent of China’s total energy consumption to come from renewable sources by 2020.” By aligning China’s green technology advances with a “Sputnik moment,” Klare frames the act of preserving resources as a competitive response to a geopolitical rival.

There are, however, notable deficiencies in this proposed solution. One question that persists is how policymaking bodies and the private sector can be motivated to spearhead some of the changes that are suggested and devote enough investment to developing these long-term approaches. Unfortunately, the degree of specificity in Klare’s account of the problems is not matched by his rendition of their possible solutions. The book would benefit from a thorough delineation of some concrete steps that would foster entrepreneurship and encourage governments to focus on these problems. Precious little time is devoted to explaining the logistical specifics of how the “race to adapt” resolution can be realized. The reader, made aware of the problems ahead, will undoubtedly yearn for a more detailed analysis of their potential solutions. For that, the reader must turn elsewhere.

Ultimately, Klare delivers a compelling and detailed account of the issues that the citizens of the world must confront. His readers are privileged with an insight into nature and into the consequences of the emerging deficiencies in some of the world’s most important natural resources. The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources enables its readers to understand the motivations of significant international players and contextualizes their policy decisions. Klare pushes his readers to confront a precarious international situation, infused with the potential for conflict and environmental catastrophe.