Extraction to Extinction by David Howe

3.5 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Almost everything that we use or consume started in the crust of our planet in some way or other, even plants and trees are dependent on the soil. Unlike the other species that inhabit the Earth, we have learnt how to seek out and extract the materials that we can use in all manner of different ways. And we have been doing this for the past ten thousand years.

What we have achieved is just staggering too. We have extracted the metals from rock to make weapons, tools, buildings and vehicles. Rocks have been ground up to make a new substance that is the foundation of all our roads and construction industry. It reminded me of a quote from a Bill Bryson book that said: you could stand me on a beach till the end of time and never would it occur to me to try to make it into windows. We have gone from a species that had almost no impact on the places that we lived.

A lot of people have made a lot of money from these material extractions from our planet, but this wealth generation has come at a great cost to the planet. Vast mines have caused and continue to cause pollution and destruction to the places they are located. Processing these materials has been a contributing factor to the build-up of greenhouse gases too that will be a problem in the very near future. It begs the question, what are we going to do when we have used everything up?

I thought that this was a clear and concise explanation of how we have used ingenuity and skills to find numerous ways of extracting minerals and metals from the planet. We extract billions of tons of materials from the Earth each year, so much so that we are becoming our own geological time. He clearly explains the flip side to this is the rise in carbon dioxide that is contributing to climate change as well as the environmental catastrophe of vast commercial extractions to local areas. Howe’s prose is crisp and very much to the point making this a good introduction to the way that we extract and use minerals in modern life. But it is also a warning that what we are doing may not be repairable now. I thought it was well worth reading.

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  1. Liz Dexter

    That does sound like a worthwhile and well-done book. You’re reading some good ones this month! I seem to be on a fiction “thing” at the moment, although just reviewed one (and a half) nonfiction titles today.

    • Paul

      It is a light touch book if that makes sense? It doesn’t read like a dry academic tome. My filter for bad books is much better than it used to be

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