Rare Earth Frontiers: From Terrestrial Subsoils to Lunar Landscapes

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile by Vinícius Henrique Photography
Rare Earth Frontiers, a recent book from Julie Michelle Klinger, is a work of human geography that serves to demystify the powerful elements that make possible the miniaturization of electronics, green energy and medical technologies, and essential telecommunications and defense systems. Klinger draws attention to the fact that the rare earths we rely on most are as common as copper or lead, and this means the implications of their extraction are global. She excavates the rich historical origins and ongoing ramifications of the quest to mine rare earths in ever more impossible places.
Klinger writes about the devastating damage to lives and the environment caused by the exploitation of rare earths. She demonstrates in human terms how scarcity myths have been conscripted into diverse geopolitical campaigns that use rare earth mining as a pretext to capture spaces that have historically fallen beyond the grasp of centralized power. These include legally and logistically forbidding locations in the Amazon, Greenland, Afghanistan and on the Moon. Drawing on ethnographic, archival and interview data gathered in local languages and offering possible solutions to the problems it documents, this book examines the production of the rare earth frontier as a place, a concept and a zone of contestation, sacrifice and transformation.
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