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Sand, iron, salt, oil, copper and lithium: our lives depend on these six substances, possibly more than we realise, and whoever controls them will wield particular power in the coming century.
In a world that’s increasingly digital, virtual and wireless – we’ve created the illusion of a weightless world of information, but in fact we dug more stuff out of the earth in 2017 than in all of human history before 1950. And it’s getting worse.
To make one bar of gold, requires digging 5,000 tons of earth. For every tonne of fossil fuels, we extract six tonnes of other materials – from sand to stone to wood to metal. While attempting to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels we have redoubled our consumption of everything else. Why? Because these six ingredients build everything. They power our computers, phones and electric vehicles, build our homes and offices, create life-saving medicines, and our modern world would not exist without them.
In his latest book, Material World, Ed Conway explores the hidden battles going on to gain control of these precious substances – but who is involved, and what does this mean for the future of society, the economy and the planet?
editor and invited experts
Journalist and author ‘Material World’