Land conversion involves the transformation of arable land or natural areas into alternative uses. This can be for housing, industry or infrastructural development, amongst other things.
This process is a global phenomenon, and has potentially harmful social and environmental consequences throughout both the ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ world. Once again, the key discourse in support of such conversion tends to be one of modernisation; such developments are needed in order to provide economic growth and development.
Yet who such ‘growth’ and ‘development’ benefits is a question that needs to be more adequately dealt with. More to the point, who might it dispossess and marginalise?
The growth argument has for too long been used as an all-conquering response to such concerns, especially as evidence of a ‘trickle down effect’ has been scant at best. The benefits that the areas in question provide for local communities needs to be given greater emphasis in debates. Arable land and forested or aquiferous areas can provide vital social, environmental and economic services that are often overlooked due to their informal or indirect nature.