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The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  151 ratings  ·  27 reviews
Our future hinges on a set of elements that few of us have even heard of. In this surprising and revealing book, David S. Abrahamunveils what rare metals are and why our electronic gadgets, the most powerful armies, and indeed the fate of our planet depend on them. These metals have become the building blocks of modern society; their properties are now essential for nearly ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published October 28th 2015 by Yale University Press (first published October 27th 2015)
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Start your review of The Elements of Power: Gadgets, Guns, and the Struggle for a Sustainable Future in the Rare Metal Age
Clare O'Beara
The rare earth elements and rare metals derived from them are increasingly in all our gadgetry, our jet engines, turbine blades and replacement joints, just as much as in our weaponry and our MRI scanners. Mining, refining, separating, producing, selling, trading, using, recycling and inventing are all covered in this great look at REEs, along with the author's experiences.

Having witnessed first-hand how Japan backed down to China over sea territory, when Chinese merchants stopped trading REEs
...more
Randall Wallace
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Niobium is so important for steel production that the Eiffel Tower made with it would have been 2,000 tons of steel, instead of 7,000 tons of steel as it was made. Vanadium strengthens steel and also makes it lighter. Henry Ford once said, “But for vanadium there would be no automobiles.” Tantalum has the unique ability to keep an electric charge. “Germanium comes from the residue of coal ash.” “Processing aluminum and zinc yields gallium; nickel and copper deposits produce cobalt; and zinc yiel ...more
Denis Vasilev
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Denis by: Dennis
Огненная книга про редкоземы. Подробно рассмотрены с разных сторон добыча, потребление, использование, экология и много других важных аспектов. Намного лучше стал понимать сферу, хотя и раньше исследовал вопрос
Angie Reisetter
I'll never see my electronic gadgets the same way again! In this amazing book, David Abraham surveyed our current uses of rare metals, where they come from, how dependent on them we are, and what those consequences are. There was a great balance of science and tech and international politics and policy. As we work to make our lives better, more convenient, and greener (think batteries!), we're using more and more elements most people have never heard of. And since we don't mine those elements he ...more
Dеnnis
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Издательство Института Гайдара перевело и выпустило выдающуюся книгу о почти неизвестной изнанке современного прогресса — редкоземельных металлах. Настолько же легко читающуюся, насколько и потрясающую представленными фактами. Без растущего применения этих элементов, которых и на школьных уроках химии почти не касаются, наш мир оставался бы таким, как в начале 1990-х. Книга раскрывает огромный спектр возможностей, связанных с этим драгоценным ресурсом, в том числе и политических. Но нам точно ку ...more
Alia
Oct 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
David Abraham has changed the way I look at all the gadgets and technology that surrounds us. He explains the facts and technical details in a way that everyone can understand. The poetic and vivid description of his journeys and fascinating characters places me there experiencing it with him. As I post this review on my iPhone, I now know what minor metal is needed to press submit. An amazing book!
John
Amongst the flurry of books over the last few years focusing on the geopolitics of metals and mining, and in particular the so-called ‘critical metals’ David Abraham’s effort “The Elements of Power” promises a less-hyperbolic and more pragmatic approach to the subject, even offering some useful advice to policy-makers responsible for regulating this sector. In his own words: “My fear is that a lack of attention to and understanding… of the Rare Metal Age…, will limit our prosperity and undermine ...more
Joe Q.
May 22, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book describes some of the issues surrounding the world's reliance on "rare metals" (which the author basically defines as anything beyond the most basic commodity metals -- i.e. anything beyond iron, aluminum, zinc, copper, and perhaps nickel). Through interviews with miners, traders, and end-users, he convincingly traces how the network of informal relationships, lack of open markets, economic nationalism on the part of several key players (especially China) combined with our technology-h ...more
Bobbe
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew absolutely nothing about rare earth elements. This book gives information and insights in (mostly) laypeople's terms. The geopolitics involved, the environmental pros and cons, and the way these elements touch all aspects of our gadgetry are discussed. I am glad I read this---and was glad the author offers some suggestions for improvement, including recycling devices and coming up with a global plan. (Now, if only politicians throughout our world would see the advantages of working TOGETH ...more
Greg Fanoe
The tone in this was rather alarmist for my taste, and it was a bit light and extremely vague on potential solutions to the problems presented (like, "get people interested in materials science" and "get people to throw away cell phones less often" don't exactly represent the sort of visionary solutions this problem seems to require), but it seemed to do a good job presenting a geopolitical/scientific issue I had spent 0 time thinking about up to this point and which I now find pretty interestin ...more
David
Jun 14, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Geopolitics of Rare Metals

This book could have been a winner but the interesting scientific aspects of these metals were diluted by the constant diversions into market strategies—that was acceptable —BUT
the OBSESSION with climate change and a green sustainable world was toxic —repetitive—and a great irony emerged throughout the book —it is the green revolution that is driving up the price and scarcity of many of these elements and for many of us this diversion is completely political not scient
...more
Andy Lockhart
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Abraham's book provides an essential and very readable overview (with fascinating stories and detail) of the dilemmas the world faces in the rare metal age - especially for those thinking about the role of high tech and green tech in sustainable futures. I'd highly recommend it on those merits alone, but the conclusions are pretty basic and conventional, and if you're looking for something situated in any kind of critical political economy, you won't find it here.
Shyue Ping Ong
This is an important topic, and as a materials scientist myself, I am glad someone is writing about it. However, I find the organization and writing far too sloppy. The best I can characterize the writing is like a brain-dump. There are long sections where the author goes from one point to another, without seeming any connection.
Erik Surewaard
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In case you never heard of “rare earth metals”, or dont exactly know what it is, this is a great introductory read.

Discussed what it stands for, why they become more relevant over time, how they are mined, separated, sold, recycled... Discussed geopolitical and ecological impact.

Also a nice writing style and the book has a great ‘flow’.
Peter Murray
Abraham does a very good job at building the case that we need to be worried about our ever-increasingly high-tech world - and the ever-diminishing and unstable rare metals it will need. A fascinating and unsettling look into a world that most of us never even think of even if it makes possible all of the things we've surrounded ourselves with, embedded ourselves into and depend upon.
Walliam Batson
May 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: finances
Great research work, very interesting subject
Hein Min Thaung
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little bit boring but it is worthy to read to explore about the rare metal
Scott Milam
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Critically important topic and the book was fantastic. Filled with interesting details that help highlight the need for more education and science in this field.
Kade
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A solid primer on the rare metal issues facing our world.
Guy
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall very interesting, if a bit depressing. It's hard to believe that rare metals can have such an impact on our daily lives. A good read if you're interested in technology or just want to learn a bit more about resource-based geopolitics, but a bit dry if you're not into that kind of stuff. Overall it has a lot of information but it can be a bit repetitive at times also.

(I had to read this for a class).
George Siehl
A very interesting overview of the role of rare earth elements and their importance in the world now, and increasingly, in the future. They are scarce, difficult to mine and process when found, and frequently cause pollution from mining to ultimate disposal. However, they are central to our high technology lifestyle, important keys to energy conservation, and gain more important uses every year. They are used in electric toothbrushes, light bulbs, smartphones, computers, communications, and mili ...more
Richard
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting read about Rare Earth and/or Rare Earth Metals which really describes the same thing: hard to obtain and/or rare minerals. Some are abundant, but are hard to access, process, etc. and they are alot of them that ordinary people like myself has never heard of. Of course, everyone has heard of copper, tin, aluminum, but the rare earths are in another category. They are really under are noses, because they are in a lot of electronics devices ie. - mobile phones, tablets, computers, ...more
Joshua Waldorf
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Elements of Power point out the conundrums facing the world in balancing the technological advances and conveniences we want, with the true environmental costs during the Rare Metal Age. The idea that mining and extracting the minor metals, that make electric toothbrushes, car or smart phones are devastating the environment. Or that to meet demand for minor metals will call for quadrupling output above today’s production furthering the degradation to our planet. The Elements of Power is a mu ...more
Denis
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book eyeopening. In an age when so many of us now take our technology and devices for granted, this book starts a conversation that we ought to have more of. It reminded me that everything has an origin, and origins of our cellphones, smartwatches and other tech we use daily are not as shiny and clean and reliable as the final product. Great read!
Alexis
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
A very readable introduction to rare earth metals, their mining, manufacturing, use, and future. I found the chapters on the interplay between serious mining of these materials and efforts to be green the most interesting.
Samuel Lubell
The premise of this book is that rare metals needed for electronics will dominate the future and will cause national struggles. This is interesting but not convincing. For instance, he doesn't show why alternatives cannot be found for these metals. It is weak on solutions.
Nadine Freischlad
rated it it was amazing
Sep 05, 2016
Ed Franks
rated it it was amazing
Jan 05, 2020
Kenny Jones
rated it really liked it
Mar 14, 2020
Baryon
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Aug 30, 2019
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David S. Abraham is a natural resource strategist who previously analyzed risk on Wall Street and at an energy-trading firm, oversaw natural-resources programs at the White House Office of Management and Budget, and ran a water-focused NGO in Africa. He currently serves as senior fellow at the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Los ...more

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“The future of our high-tech goods may lie not in the limitations of our minds, but in our ability to secure the ingredients to to produce them.” 0 likes
“For most companies it’s ‘difficult, if not impossible, to trace the minerals’ origins,’ as the computer manufacturer Dell notes. Such lack of transparency is hardly a fail-safe situation when companies often need hundreds or thousands of components or more.” 0 likes
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