Chelsea Green Publishing


Pages:368 pages
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603585415
Pub. Date April 22, 2014


How the Quest for Mineral Wealth Is Plundering the Planet

By Ugo Bardi
Foreword by Jorgen Randers

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
April 22, 2014


As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet’s mineral bounty, the resources we exploit from ores, veins, seams, and wells are gradually becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, or even billions, of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries–or sometimes just decades.

Will there come a time when we actually run out of minerals? Debates already soar over how we are going to obtain energy without oil, coal, and gas. But what about the other mineral losses we face? Without metals, and semiconductors, how are we going to keep our industrial system running? Without mineral fertilizers and fuels, how are we going to produce the food we need?

Ugo Bardi delivers a sweeping history of the mining industry, starting with its humble beginning when our early ancestors started digging underground to find the stones they needed for their tools. He traces the links between mineral riches and empires, wars, and civilizations, and shows how mining in its various forms came to be one of the largest global industries. He also illustrates how the gigantic mining machine is now starting to show signs of difficulties. The easy mineral resources, the least expensive to extract and process, have been mostly exploited and depleted. There are plenty of minerals left to extract, but at higher costs and with increasing difficulties.

The effects of depletion take different forms and one may be the economic crisis that is gripping the world system. And depletion is not the only problem. Mining has a dark side–pollution–that takes many forms and delivers many consequences, including climate change. 

The world we have been accustomed to, so far, was based on cheap mineral resources and on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb pollution without generating damage to human beings. Both conditions are rapidly disappearing. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world.

Bardi draws upon the world’s leading minerals experts to offer a compelling glimpse into that new world ahead.



"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.”

Publishers Weekly-

"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

“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


Ugo Bardi

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.


Urban Challenges

Plundering the Planet

Ugo Bardi: Der geplunderte Planet - Interview June 2013

How the quest for mineral wealth is plundering the planet


Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

By Gary Paul Nabhan

How to harvest water and nutrients, select drought-tolerant plants, and create natural diversity

Because climatic uncertainty has now become "the new normal," many farmers, gardeners and orchard-keepers in North America are desperately seeking ways to adapt their food production to become more resilient in the face of such "global weirding." This book draws upon the wisdom and technical knowledge from desert farming traditions all around the world to offer time-tried strategies for:

  • Building greater moisture-holding capacity and nutrients in soils
  • Protecting fields from damaging winds, drought, and floods
  • Harvesting water from uplands to use in rain gardens and terraces filled with perennial crops
  • Delecting fruits, nuts, succulents, and herbaceous perennials that are best suited to warmer, drier climates

Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the world's experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands. For this book he has visited indigenous and traditional farmers in the Gobi Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, and Andalusia, as well as the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Painted deserts of North America, to learn firsthand their techniques and designs aimed at reducing heat and drought stress on orchards, fields, and dooryard gardens. This practical book also includes colorful "parables from the field" that exemplify how desert farmers think about increasing the carrying capacity and resilience of the lands and waters they steward. It is replete with detailed descriptions and diagrams of how to implement these desert-adapted practices in your own backyard, orchard, or farm.

This unique book is useful not only for farmers and permaculturists in the arid reaches of the Southwest or other desert regions. Its techniques and prophetic vision for achieving food security in the face of climate change may well need to be implemented across most of North America over the next half-century, and are already applicable in most of the semiarid West, Great Plains, and the U.S. Southwest and adjacent regions of Mexico.

Available in: Paperback

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Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land

Gary Paul Nabhan, Bill McKibben

Paperback $29.95

The Earth Care Manual

The Earth Care Manual

By Patrick Whitefield

The long-awaited exploration of permaculture specifically for cooler Northern Hemisphere climates is finally here! Already regarded as the definitive book on the subject, The Earth Care Manual is accessible to the curious novice as much as it is essential for the knowledgeable practitioner.

Permaculture started out in the 1970s as a sustainable alternative to modern agriculture, taking its inspiration from natural ecosystems. It has always placed an emphasis on gardening, but since then it has expanded to include many other aspects, from community design to energy use. It can be seen as an overall framework that puts a diversity of green ideas into perspective. Its aims are low work, high output, and genuine sustainability.

Available in: Hardcover

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The Earth Care Manual

Patrick Whitefield

Hardcover $75.00

Death & Sex

Death & Sex

By Tyler Volk and Dorion Sagan

On DEATH . . .
What is shared by spawning Pacific salmon, towering trees, and suicidal bacteria? In his lucid and concise exploration of how and why things die, Tyler Volk explains the intriguing ways creatures-including ourselves-use death to actually enhance life. Death is not simply the end of the living, though even in that aspect the Grim Reaper has long been essential to natural selection. Indeed, the exquisite schemes and styles of death that have emerged from evolution have been essential to the great story from life's beginnings in tiny bacteria nearly four thousand million years ago to ancient human rituals surrounding death and continuing to the existential concerns of human culture and consciousness today. Volk weaves together autobiography, biology, Earth history, and results of fascinating studies that show how thoughts of our own mortality affect our everyday lives, to prove how an understanding of what some have called the ultimate taboo can enrich the celebration of life.

. . . and SEX
In Sex, Dorion Sagan takes a delightful, irreverent, and informative romp through the science, philosophy, and literature of humanity's most obsessive subject. Have you ever wondered what the anatomy and promiscuous behaviors of chimpanzees and the sexual bullying of gorillas tell us about ourselves? Why we lost our hair? What amoebas have to do with desire? Linking evolutionary biology to salacious readings of the lives and thoughts of such notables as the Marquis de Sade and Simone de Beauvoir, and discussing works as varied as The Story of O and Silence of the Lambs, Sex touches on a potpourri of interrelated topics ranging from animal genitalia to sperm competition, the difference between nakedness and nudity, jealousy's status as an aphrodisiac and the origins of language, Casanova and music, ovulation and clothes, mother-in-law jokes and alpha females, love and loneliness. A brief, wonderfully entertaining, highly literate foray into the origins and evolution of sex.

Two books in one cover, Death & Sex unravel and answer some of life's most fundamental questions.

Available in: Hardcover

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Death & Sex

Dorion Sagan, Tyler Volk

Hardcover $25.00



By Alan Weisman

Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.

In the absence of infrastructure, the first Gaviotans invented wind turbines to convert mild breezes into energy, hand pumps capable of tapping deep sources of water, and solar collectors efficient enough to heat and even sterilize drinking water under perennially cloudy llano skies. Over time, the Gaviotans’ experimentation has even restored an ecosystem: in the shelter of two million Caribbean pines planted as a source of renewable commercial resin, a primordial rain forest that once covered the llanos is unexpectedly reestablishing itself.

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez has called Paolo Lugari “Inventor of the World.” Lugari himself has said that Gaviotas is not a utopia: “Utopia literally means ‘no place.’ We call Gaviotas a topia, because it’s real.”

Relive their story with this special 10th-anniversary edition of Gaviotas, complete with a new afterword by the author describing how Gaviotas has survived and progressed over the past decade.

Available in: Paperback

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Alan Weisman

Paperback $16.95