A roundup of news, views and ideas from the mainstream press and the blogosphere. Click on the headline link to see the full article.

The coming concrete crisis

Vince Beiser, The Globe and Mail
You may not realize it, but as you read this, you are probably surrounded by the most important artificial material ever invented. Is there a floor beneath you, walls around, a roof overhead? Chances are excellent they are made at least partly out of this astonishingly underappreciated material: concrete.

To most people, concrete is just the ugly stuff used to pave paradise and put up a parking lot. But concrete is an invention as transformative as fire or electricity. Since it came into widespread use around the turn of the 20th century, this man-made stone has changed where and how billions of people live, work and move around. It is the skeleton of almost every apartment block and shopping mall, and of most of the roads connecting them. It gives us the power to dam enormous rivers, erect buildings of Olympian height and travel the world with an ease that would astonish our ancestors.

… Making all that concrete, however, takes a heavy toll on the atmosphere. The cement industry produces 5 per cent to 10 per cent of total carbon-dioxide emissions worldwide, putting it behind only coal-fuelled power plants and automobiles as a source of global-warming gases.

Vince Beiser is author of the The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How It Transformed Civilization, which was published this month and from which this essay is adapted.
(24 August 2018)
Hat tip: Paul Heft.

American Beauties: How plastic bags came to rule our lives, and why we can’t quit them

Rebecca Altman, Topic
… While the plastic sack was designed to carry goods, I’ve come to think that what the bag does best is collect.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…