Good Reads: Rare Earths and Conflict across Scale

Rare earths metals made a lot of news over the last decade, after most of us spent years forgetting what we once learned their names on the periodic table. Rare earths consist of 17 different metals, from scandium (element 21) down to lutetium (element 71). They are important to a host of high tech and energy technologies, including renewable energy technologies. For instance, neodymium and terbium are used in the production of solar panels and wind turbines. Neodymium is a key input to make the magnets needed for generators in wind turbines and motors in electric cars. These elements are thus vital to firms, states, activists and consumers around the world. Two recent books have a lot teach us about the politics and the conflicts around rare earth metals: Sophia Kalantzakos’ China and the Geopolitics of Rare Earths, and Julie Michelle Klinger’s Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes. Kalantzakos’ book focuses attention on inter-state power politics, with China at the center of rare earths geopolitics. Klinger looks on “frontier” spaces that play host to contentious politics and sometimes violent conflicts between local communities, firms, activists and public sector actors in mining regions – and potential mining regions — around the globe and from the seabed to the moon. Click here for my detailed review of both books!

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