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THE RARE METALS WAR

THE DARK SIDE OF CLEAN ENERGY AND DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES

A well-rendered explanation of further bad news on the clean energy front.

An expert account of a poorly understood but critical element in our economy.

Most readers will agree with French journalist Pitron that China is this century’s rising power, but it may be news that it’s the world’s leading producer of 28 vital mineral resources. Some are well known and precious (platinum, palladium, germanium); others are “rare earth metals,” 17 obscure elements with names such as cerium, dysprosium, and yttrium. Taken together, their yearly production is 0.01% that of steel, but they possess dazzling magnetic properties, making them essential in computers, cellphones, rechargeable batteries, and catalytic converters. China produces 95% of rare earth metals. Western leaders have been expressing alarm at the dependence on China for strategic metals, but efforts to self-produce have accomplished little. Pitron delivers a gripping, detailed, and discouraging explanation. During most of the 20th century, American rare metal mines led the world but produced immense chemical and radioactive pollution. The mines were in constant trouble with the EPA. Then, in the 1990s, China offered to sell ore cheaply (actually at a loss). Because American entrepreneurs realized that Chinese labor was cheap and skilled and not subject to environmental regulation, over time, large numbers of high-tech firms moved operations across the Pacific. China once sold Apple the rare metals that make up the iPhone; today, it manufactures the device. China leads the world in renewable technology production—solar panels, wind turbines, electric-vehicle batteries, etc. This not only requires mining, which is not renewable, but leads to massive pollution. Furthermore, experts calculate that the mining, manufacturing, fueling, and operation of clean energy products generates more, not less, greenhouse gas. “Put simply,” writes the author, “clean energy is a dirty affair. Yet we feign ignorance because we refuse to take stock of the end-to-end production cycle of wind turbines and solar panels.”

A well-rendered explanation of further bad news on the clean energy front.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-950354-31-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribe

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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WHAT THIS COMEDIAN SAID WILL SHOCK YOU

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

The comedian argues that the arts of moderation and common sense must be reinvigorated.

Some people are born snarky, some become snarky, and some have snarkiness thrust upon them. Judging from this book, Maher—host of HBO’s Real Time program and author of The New New Rules and When You Ride Alone, You Ride With bin Laden—is all three. As a comedian, he has a great deal of leeway to make fun of people in politics, and he often delivers hilarious swipes with a deadpan face. The author describes himself as a traditional liberal, with a disdain for Republicans (especially the MAGA variety) and a belief in free speech and personal freedom. He claims that he has stayed much the same for more than 20 years, while the left, he argues, has marched toward intolerance. He sees an addiction to extremism on both sides of the aisle, which fosters the belief that anyone who disagrees with you must be an enemy to be destroyed. However, Maher has always displayed his own streaks of extremism, and his scorched-earth takedowns eventually become problematic. The author has something nasty to say about everyone, it seems, and the sarcastic tone starts after more than 300 pages. As has been the case throughout his career, Maher is best taken in small doses. The book is worth reading for the author’s often spot-on skewering of inept politicians and celebrities, but it might be advisable to occasionally dip into it rather than read the whole thing in one sitting. Some parts of the text are hilarious, but others are merely insulting. Maher is undeniably talented, but some restraint would have produced a better book.

Maher calls out idiocy wherever he sees it, with a comedic delivery that veers between a stiletto and a sledgehammer.

Pub Date: May 21, 2024

ISBN: 9781668051351

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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BEYOND THE GENDER BINARY

From the Pocket Change Collective series

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change.

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Artist and activist Vaid-Menon demonstrates how the normativity of the gender binary represses creativity and inflicts physical and emotional violence.

The author, whose parents emigrated from India, writes about how enforcement of the gender binary begins before birth and affects people in all stages of life, with people of color being especially vulnerable due to Western conceptions of gender as binary. Gender assignments create a narrative for how a person should behave, what they are allowed to like or wear, and how they express themself. Punishment of nonconformity leads to an inseparable link between gender and shame. Vaid-Menon challenges familiar arguments against gender nonconformity, breaking them down into four categories—dismissal, inconvenience, biology, and the slippery slope (fear of the consequences of acceptance). Headers in bold font create an accessible navigation experience from one analysis to the next. The prose maintains a conversational tone that feels as intimate and vulnerable as talking with a best friend. At the same time, the author's turns of phrase in moments of deep insight ring with precision and poetry. In one reflection, they write, “the most lethal part of the human body is not the fist; it is the eye. What people see and how people see it has everything to do with power.” While this short essay speaks honestly of pain and injustice, it concludes with encouragement and an invitation into a future that celebrates transformation.

A fierce, penetrating, and empowering call for change. (writing prompt) (Nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09465-5

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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