A natural resource strategist investigates the growing global demand for rare metals and what it means to the environment and our future
Our future hinges on a set of elements that few of us have even heard of. In this surprising and revealing book, David S. Abraham unveils 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 all our electronic, military, and “green” technologies. But their growing use is not without environmental, economic, and geopolitical consequences.
Abraham traces these elements’ hidden paths from mines to our living rooms, from the remote hills of China to the frozen Gulf of Finland, providing vivid accounts of those who produce, trade, and rely on rare metals. He argues that these materials are increasingly playing a significant role in global affairs, conferring strength to countries and companies that can ensure sustainable supplies.
Just as oil, iron, and bronze revolutionized previous eras, so too will these metals. The challenges this book reveals, and the plans it proposes, make it essential reading for our rare metal age.
David S. Abraham is a natural resource strategist who currently directs the Technology, Rare and Electronics Materials Center. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
"A thought-provoking book that follows the trail of these elements [that] . . . are no less transformative—and are possibly just as valuable—as oil and coal."—The Economist
"In The Elements of Power, David Abraham attempts to peel back the screen on our devices and discover what’s behind."—Henry Sanderson, Financial Times
"[A] fascinating and important book."—Rupert Edis, Sunday Times
"He tells his story in an extremely engaging manner. . . . This is a remarkable book that genuinely changes how one views such objects as the iMac I am typing this review on or the iPhone buzzing on my desk."—Michael Burleigh, Literary Review
"Fast-paced. . . . It succeeds in welcoming readers of any background to the otherwise impenetrable conversations about rare metal politics . . . [which] could scarcely be relayed more engagingly."—Royal Society of Chemistry, Chemistry World
"David Abraham’s The Elements of Power paints a global portrait with paradigm-shifting flair. It’s a tale of shock and ore . . . welcoming readers of any background to the otherwise impenetrable conversation about rare metal geopolitics."—Christopher Bernard, Chemistry World
"The Elements of Power is an insightful, innovative and convincing book."—Thomas Rid, Survival
Winner of the 2016 Excellence in Journalism Award given by the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation
"Abraham deftly explains why the age of technology is also the age of rare metals—and what that could mean for the world. This book lays the groundwork for an important discussion we need to have."—Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, and author of Every Nation for Itself
"For those of us who marvel at hybrid cars, smartphones, and wind turbines, but don’t really know where indium, europium, and tantalum come from, an uneasy feeling is beginning to gnaw. In this extraordinary book, Abraham shows that the countries that control rare metals will control the future. His exhaustive research and vivid explanations are alarming and compelling."—Robert C. (Bud) McFarlane, former National Security Advisor and cofounder of the United States Energy Security Council
"With intelligence and nuance, Abraham sounds the alarm and brings attention to a coming resource conundrum. We are entering an age when the need for mere grams of obscure-sounding metals will have vast geopolitical consequences."—James Stavridis, Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and Supreme Allied Commander, NATO (2009 to 2013)
"Abraham unearths fascinating tales of a set of metals which may seem inconsequential, but underpin our lifestyles in ways few outside of scientific and select business circles understand."—Roderick G. Eggert, Colorado School of Mines and Critical Materials Institute
"In TheElements of Power, David Abraham explores a phenomena essential to our everyday lives and our future, but rarely studied or understood in the context of global policy or daily life. This is a book not just for specialists but also for those who are trying to chart a sustainable future for the world."—Christie Todd Whitman, 50th governor of New Jersey, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
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