Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet Paperback – Apr 22 2014
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“Although Ugo Bardi’s fine book focuses on extraction, it also discusses geological formation of minerals and ores, mining, metallurgy, coinage of precious metals, debt, waste, pollution, climate change, and the dark side of mining. Interspersed are short digressions written by other experts on related topics ranging from soil fertility and plants as miners, to peak oil and coal, and the Hubbert depletion curve. The book is clearly written and insightful. Highly recommended!”--Herman Daly, author of Ecological Economics; professor emeritus, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland
"Although mining the earth’s crust for its amazingly versatile mineral resources has been going on for centuries, the damaging environmental side effects from our increasing demand for precious metals have become obvious only in the last few decades. Yet, according to Italian chemistry professor and ecological expert Bardi, who wrote this report for the Club of Rome, a global think tank devoted to addressing political and humanitarian concerns, worldwide mineral depletion not only impacts climate change but strains the international economy and often harms the indigenous cultures where mining takes place. After taking readers through a tour of mineral mining’s colorful history, Bardi explains the multistage process of bringing minerals to market, from extraction to refinement, before addressing mining’s dark side, including reckless waste and child labor in Third World countries. With input from other mineral experts, Bardi also rebuts critics who argue that emerging technologies, like a ‘universal mining machine,' will be able to solve most of these problems. A skillfully written guide to a crucial, little-understood subject and an urgent wake-up call.”
"Our massive global mining infrastructure is showing signs of strain, writes Bardi (The Limits of Growth Revisited), University of Florence professor of chemistry, in this insightful if pessimistic description of the industry’s history, operation, and future. All mined minerals including carbon (coal, oil, gas) are unrenewable resources whose supply is already dwindling. Sadly, as with global warming, there are skeptics and denialists who insist that (a) it’s not true, and (b) technology will fix matters. These same opponents state, correctly, that we have extracted a minuscule fraction of the oil, iron, or even gold in the earth’s crust. But they ignore that, as ore quality diminishes and extracting becomes harder, the price rises. For example, platinum (essential in catalytic converters), silver, and oil cost four times more than in the year 2000. They also assume that technology will produce a 'universal mining machine,' which will consume ordinary rock, extracting whatever is valuable. Although theoretically possible, such a machine would require immense amounts of energy and leave behind unthinkable quantities of waste. Bardi concludes that things must change, and though his is not an encouraging book, readers will appreciate his intelligent, lucid, and disturbing account of our mishandling of mineral resources.”
“Ugo Bardi’s book is an effective piece of work for stimulating thought and debate on this planet’s mineral wealth, and how we should view this issue within the framework of sustainability. The book goes into the history of how human society has used minerals, their relationship with the evolution of human civilization, and how we should use these resources in the future. There is a wealth of information in this volume that deals with important minerals like uranium, lithium, rare earths, copper, nickel, zinc, phosphorous, and others. Readers would find the material presented very informative and a valuable basis for discussions on minerals policy.”--Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman, UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; CEO, The Energy and Resources Institute
"Most decisionmakers and citizens view money as the primary driver of our societies. Yet our civilization is first dependent on extraction of natural capital—minerals, ores, and particularly energy–that are the precursors for everything in our economies. Ugo Bardi and guest authors provide an excellent overview on the history, significance, and future of minerals and energy and how this relates to our human ecosystem. Wide boundary thinking at its best."--Nate Hagens, former editor, The Oil Drum; former vice-president, Solomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers
"The world economy is now phenomenally large in comparison with the planetary base that is the setting for all economic activity. Natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce, and the planet's sinks for absorbing waste products are already exhausted in many contexts. In Extracted, Ugo Bardi tells the story of our planetary plunder from its beginnings up through the present. He tells it with verve and insight, and he offers a powerful perspective on what the implications are for the future. This newest report from the Club of Rome demands our serious attention."--James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy and former dean, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies
"Here is the book many of us in the sustainability world have been looking forward to: a comprehensive, readable, historically informed inquiry into the depletion of Earth’s mineral resources. Extracted should be on the reading list of every introductory class in economics—as well as environmental studies, geology, history, political science . . . heck, everybody should read it."--Richard Heinberg, senior fellow, Post Carbon Institute; author, The End of Growth
About the Author
Ugo Bardi is a member of the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Florence, where he teaches physical chemistry. His research interests include mineral resources, renewable energy, and system dynamics applied to economics. He is a member of the Club of Rome, of the scientific committee of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), and Climalteranti, a group active in climate science. He is also founder and former president of the Italian chapter of ASPO and chief editor of Frontiers in Energy Systems and Policy. His articles have appeared on The Oil Drum, Resilience (formerly The Energy Bulletin, Financial Sense, and Cassandra's Legacy. His previous books include The Limits to Growth Revisited.
Jorgen Randers is professor of climate strategy at the BI Norwegian Business School, where he works on climate issues and scenario analysis. He was previously president of BI and deputy director general of WWF International (World Wildlife Fund) in Switzerland. He lectures internationally on sustainable development and especially climate, and is a nonexecutive member of a number of corporate boards. He sits on the sustainability councils of British Telecom in the UK and the Dow Chemical Company in the United States. In 2006 he chaired the cabinet-appointed Commission on Low Greenhouse Gas Emissions, which reported on how Norway can cut its climate gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050. Randers has written numerous books and scientific papers, and was coauthor of The Limits to Growth in 1972, Beyond the Limits in 1992, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update in 2004, and 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years in 2011. Randers lives
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Where the book is not as good is on what is likely to happen going forward. Bardi gives you all possible options in terms of models. He talks about the whale oil model, Hotelling's model, Jevons' model, Sollow's "factors of production," Hardin's "tragedy of the commons, Lotka and Volterra's dynamic model of population, the use of the Hubbert curve for projection, and the Seneca effect.
Later he gives various options for the future: "the economic crisis that started in 2008 could be the first hint that decline is immanent," substitution and recycling may help, the future US direction may be somewhat similar to the collapse of the Former Soviet Union based on Orlov's work, the forecast in Randers' 2052 may be correct, or we may simply return to a purely agrarian society. He also talks about building a new industrial economy using renewable energy. (The footnote he gives is to an article that talks about getting heat from charcoal and biofuels, and electricity from hydroelectric and "renewable hydrogen.")
I got the impression that Bardi was going out of his way avoid explaining how bad things could be in the future. When he talks about going back to an agrarian society, he never mentions that this very likely would require a drop in world population. He shows image after image of projections of future fossil fuel extraction, assuming a Hubbert Curve, but never shows what the effect would be if a Seneca Curve would take over instead.
When he talks about what the <i>Limits to Growth</i> model says, he says, " We can say that the <i>Limits</i> model leads to results similar to those obtained by the simpler Hubbert one—that is, a bell-shaped curve for industrial and agricultural production. The production of mineral resources does not explicitly appear in the figure, but it is bell-shaped, too." If a person goes back to 1972 <i>Limits to Growth</i>, we find it says, "The basic behavior more of the world system is exponential growth of population and capital, followed by collapse." The chart in the 1972 book shows a very steep drop in food per capita and industrial output per capita, items Bardi conveniently leaves out of his chart.
This book could be read as an engaging and informative text, or as a prophetic warning, or both, by one the great public-intellectual scientists of our era. Technically it is a report to the Club of Rome, which sponsored the original Limits to Growth studies of the early 1970s. Indeed Professor Bardi published a spirited defense of those studies in The Limits to Growth Revisited (2011), and the current book includes a brief overview of models for cycles of production and their culmination in “system dynamics”.
It is unfortunate that even today very few economists understand system dynamics, even though the limits-to-growth scenarios are the best macroeconomics ever done in my judgment. Bardi reproduces the “business-as-usual scenario on p. 169, which suggests rapid industrial decline beginning in the coming decade unless we become much better adapted to the reality of “de-growth”. In the latter case, one of the more forgiving scenarios is possible, but it would mean a strong pulling back from fossil fuels, indeed from traditional economic growth itself. In any case, the recent slowdown of global economic growth is the direct consequence of “peak oil” for conventional oil in 2005, and this book shows that a number of other critical “peaks” will compound the end of cheap oil over the coming decades.
Although Bardi foresees “a mighty hangover once the party is over” (p. 244), he still holds out hope that we won’t revert completely to an old fashioned agrarian society. In particular he thinks that a basic electrical infrastructure could be created using minerals that are fairly abundant, if properly reused and recycled. But will electricity from renewable sources really be up to the heavy duty energy requirements of mining, transporting, and processing low grade ores? Perhaps, Bardi suggests, if our mineral requirements are drastically reduced.
But what level of world population could be fed by a radically used global economy? That’s the big question that Bardi does not address directly, though he notes that depletion of phosphorus will force the decline of industrial agriculture after a few more decades. He also notes that it took the land a few centuries to recover from the ravages of the Roman empire, with the implication that it might take much longer for the earth to recover from the far greater ravages of today.
The synergism of energy and bulk materials has allowed ever larger economies to swallow and digest, as it were, these resources at an ever increasing rate. For many minerals the easy-to-reach and richer sources are long gone. Rates of use now outpace new discoveries, or lead industries to use more energy to extract ingredients from ever more dilute or difficult reservoirs. The limits to how much is available are becoming visible. Inconvenient residues pile up in our air, water soils and oceans and wreak their own dangerous changes. Substitution of one ingredient or source for another becomes a more and more difficult option. It follows that we are in a world with finite limits where costs begin to weigh on the value of the products. It also follows, in my view, that we join Professor Bardi and clamber out of our own comfort zones and interest groups and take a look at the emerging big picture as it rises inevitably before our very eyes.
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