The American West at Risk: Science, Myths, and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery

By Howard G. Wilshire; Jane E. Nielson et al. | Go to book overview

Appendix 3
Everything Comes from the Earth
Everything that we use in daily life, even toothpaste, cosmetics and lotions, plastics and kitty litter—all are manufactured out of natural materials. Paint, paper, and plastics contain limestone, clay, and silica fillers. Water purification and many other industrial processes require filtration through limestone, salts, soda ash, and zeolite minerals. Abrasives for smoothing and scrubbing, in industry and at home, include volcanic pumice, silica, diatomite, garnet, and corundum—and diamond for polishing. The salt that we eat is a naturally occurring mineral, and medications and prepared foods commonly contain silica minerals (quartz, feldspar).Petroleum is the residue of ancient sea life, preserved in rocks now found beneath continents, or along continent-ocean margins (see chapters 12, 13). Most petroleum is refined into fuel—but it is also the raw material for plastic, miracle drugs, and synthetic cloth. Drilling for oil (or water) requires tons of steel, abrasives, and fluids made of barite (a sulfide mineral), bentonite and other clays, mica, and perlite (a hydrated volcanic glass). Refining petroleum into gasoline employs clay and zeolite (filtering) minerals and platinum for catalyst.Myriad common products are made from metals and other minerals mined from rocks, river beds, old river terraces, and old lake beds. We are using, and using up, many of these commodities at rapidly increasing rates (figure A3.1). Common products and source materials include the following:
Agricultural fertilizer—phosphorus and potassium
Air conditioning—galvanized ducts (iron and zinc): steel is galvanized by coating it with zinc
Airplanes; soft drink cans; recreational equipment (bicycles, skateboards, tennis racquets, golf clubs, frame backpacks, fishing rods, skis, etc.)—aluminum (mined as bauxite or recycled)

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