Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future
University of Regina Press (2020)
When something is everywhere, we stop seeing it: air, tap water, electricity. And concrete.
Concrete is everywhere, but many of us still call it “cement,” which is just one of concrete’s components. We take it for granted, unless we’re using it in some DIY project and it sets too soon. Using it right is almost as much art as science: Roman concrete still survives in places, but the concrete in the Samuel de Champlain Bridge disintegrated in a matter of years.
In this very readable book, Mary Soderstrom takes us from the chemistry of concrete though its long history as a kind of artificial stone to its present status as a fatal necessity — a building material urgently needed to protect us against the climate change it helps to cause.
Soderstrom’s narrative returns often to the new McInnis Cement plant on the Gaspé coast in eastern Quebec. It’s one of the latest producers in an industry that’s thousands of years old; it has an extensive market and bills itself as “ecologically sound.” But it also needs heavy government support, and inevitably contributes to the carbon dioxide emissions driving climate change.
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