Soil to Foil: Aluminum and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability

Soil to Foil: Aluminum and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability

by Saleem Ali
Soil to Foil: Aluminum and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability

Soil to Foil: Aluminum and the Quest for Industrial Sustainability

by Saleem Ali


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Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the earth’s crust. It is also ubiquitous in the modern world, from aircraft to soda cans. A dizzying number of consumer and industrial products employ aluminum, typically alloyed, because of its availability, versatility, and malleability. Today, how efficiently we use—and reuse—aluminum is vital to addressing key environmental challenges and understanding humanity’s fraught relationship with the earth.

Soil to Foil tells the extraordinary story of aluminum. Saleem H. Ali reveals its pivotal role in the histories of scientific inquiry and technological innovation as well as its importance to sustainability. He offers compelling portraits of the scientists and innovators who discovered new uses for this remarkable element, ranging from chemistry and geoscience to engineering and industrial design. Ali argues that aluminum exemplifies broader lessons about stewardship of nonrenewable resources: its seeming abundance has given rise to wasteful and destructive practices. Soil to Foil follows aluminum’s path along the supply chain, from extraction to production, consumption to recycling. Ali explores the ecological damage at mine sites and visits affected communities seeking to restore the land. He foregrounds the possibilities for more sustainable industrial practices, emphasizing how product design can incorporate eventual reuse and recycling. Ultimately, Soil to Foil shows that the story of aluminum’s use and misuse helps us rethink how to sustainably manage the resources of our planet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780231204484
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Publication date: 05/23/2023
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 376,425
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Saleem H. Ali is Blue and Gold Distinguished Professor of Energy and the Environment at the University of Delaware and a senior fellow at Columbia University’s Center on Sustainable Investment. He is a member of the United Nations International Resource Panel and the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility. Ali’s books include Earthly Order: How Natural Laws Define Human Life (2022).

Table of Contents

Part I. Salt and Sod
1. Elemental Origins and the Invention of Need
2. Soil Without Soul: Why Aluminum Was Rejected by Life
Part II. Precious Forces
3. Unbreakable Bonds: The Challenge of Extraction
4. The Bond Breakers and Their Bounty
Part III. Flight and Foil
5. Mobile Metal: How Aluminum Facilitated War and Peace
6. Aluminum for All: The Invention of a Household Metal
Part IV. Elemental Flows
7. Recycling and Realism: The Industrial Ecology Paradigm
8. Restoration and Renewal of Mineral Frontiers
Epilogue: Governing Our Planet’s Elemental Resources
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