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


How to Read the Landscape

How to Read the Landscape

By Patrick Whitefield

According to an ICM poll, 77 percent of UK adults, or about 38 million people, say they walk for pleasure at least once a month. It is remarkable, therefore, that no one has written about the landscapes they’re walking through and enjoying . . . until now.

Patrick Whitefield has spent a lifetime living and working in the countryside and twenty years of that taking notes of what he sees, everywhere from the Isle of Wight to the Scottish Highlands. This book is the fruit of those years of experience.

In How to Read the Landscape, Patrick explains everything from the details, such as the signs that wild animals leave as their signatures and the meaning behind the shapes of different trees, to how whole landscapes, including woodland, grassland, and moorland, fit together and function as a whole. Rivers and lakes, roads and paths, hedgerows and field walls are also explained, as well as the influence of different rocks, the soil, and the ever-changing climate. There’s even a chapter on the fascinating history of the landscape and one about natural succession, how the landscape changes of its own accord when we leave it alone. The landscape will never look the same again. You will not only appreciate its beauty, it will also come alive with a whole new depth of appreciation and understanding.

The lively text is supported by 50 color photographs, 140 line drawings by the author, and extracts from his notebooks illustrating actual examples of the landscapes he describes. Opening How to Read the Landscape is like opening a window on a whole new way of seeing the living world around you.

Available in: Paperback

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Limits to Growth

Limits to Growth

By Donella Meadows and Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows

In 1972, three scientists from MIT created a computer model that analyzed global resource consumption and production. Their results shocked the world and created stirring conversation about global 'overshoot,' or resource use beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Now, preeminent environmental scientists Donnella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, and Dennis Meadows have teamed up again to update and expand their original findings in The Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Global Update.

Meadows, Randers, and Meadows are international environmental leaders recognized for their groundbreaking research into early signs of wear on the planet. Citing climate change as the most tangible example of our current overshoot, the scientists now provide us with an updated scenario and a plan to reduce our needs to meet the carrying capacity of the planet.

Over the past three decades, population growth and global warming have forged on with a striking semblance to the scenarios laid out by the World3 computer model in the original Limits to Growth. While Meadows, Randers, and Meadows do not make a practice of predicting future environmental degradation, they offer an analysis of present and future trends in resource use, and assess a variety of possible outcomes.

In many ways, the message contained in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a warning. Overshoot cannot be sustained without collapse. But, as the authors are careful to point out, there is reason to believe that humanity can still reverse some of its damage to Earth if it takes appropriate measures to reduce inefficiency and waste.

Written in refreshingly accessible prose, Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update is a long anticipated revival of some of the original voices in the growing chorus of sustainability. Limits to Growth: The 30 Year Update is a work of stunning intelligence that will expose for humanity the hazy but critical line between human growth and human development.

Available in: Paperback

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The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees

By Jean Giono

Twenty years ago Chelsea Green published the first trade edition of The Man Who Planted Trees, a timeless eco-fable about what one person can do to restore the earth. The hero of the story, Elzéard Bouffier, spent his life planting one hundred acorns a day in a desolate, barren section of Provence in the south of France. The result was a total transformation of the landscape-from one devoid of life, with miserable, contentious inhabitants, to one filled with the scent of flowers, the songs of birds, and fresh, flowing water.

Since our first publication, the book has sold over a quarter of a million copies and inspired countless numbers of people around the world to take action and plant trees. On National Arbor Day, April 29, 2005, Chelsea Green released a special twentieth anniversary edition with a new foreword by Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize and founder of the African Green Belt Movement.

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

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A Sanctuary of Trees

A Sanctuary of Trees

By Gene Logsdon

As author Gene Logsdon puts it, "We are all tree huggers." But not just for sentimental or even environmental reasons. Humans have always depended on trees for our food, shelter, livelihood, and safety. In many ways, despite the Grimm's fairy-tale version of the dark, menacing forest, most people still hold a deep cultural love of woodland settings, and feel right at home in the woods.

In this latest book, A Sanctuary of Trees, Logsdon offers a loving tribute to the woods, tracing the roots of his own home groves in Ohio back to the Native Americans and revealing his own history and experiences living in many locations, each of which was different, yet inextricably linked with trees and the natural world. Whether as an adolescent studying at a seminary or as a journalist living just outside Philadelphia's city limits, Gene has always lived and worked close to the woods, and his curiosity and keen sense of observation have taught him valuable lessons about a wide variety of trees: their distinct characteristics and the multiple benefits and uses they have.

In addition to imparting many fascinating practical details of woods wisdom, A Sanctuary of Trees is infused with a philosophy and descriptive lyricism that is born from the author's passionate and lifelong relationship with nature: There is a point at which the tree shudders before it begins its descent. Then slowly it tips, picks up speed, often with a kind of wailing death cry from rending wood fibers, and hits the ground with a whump that literally shakes the earth underfoot. The air, in the aftermath, seems to shimmy and shiver, as if saturated with static electricity. Then follows an eerie silence, the absolute end to a very long life.

Fitting squarely into the long and proud tradition of American nature writing, A Sanctuary of Trees also reflects Gene Logsdon's unique personality and perspective, which have marked him over the course of his two dozen previous books as the authentic voice of rural life and traditions.

Available in: Paperback

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