Podcast: All About Rare Earth Elements, the ‘Vitamins’ Of Modern Society

In this episode of Generation Anthropocene, learn about rare earth elements (which aren’t really that rare) and why they’re so prized.

This is what about a square inch of yttrium, a rare earth element, looks like. Alchemist-hp (www.pse-mendelejew.de)/Wikimedia Commons

"Oil is the blood; steel is the body; but rare earth elements are the vitamins of a modern society." While many of us can't even pronounce elements such as praseodymium, yttrium, or gadolinium, these minerals drive our technology and our modern lifestyles. These aren't your run-of-the-mill "common" Earth elements, these are the "rare" earth elements. But... they aren't actually that rare. And their importance to modern life goes well beyond their unusual geology. In this episode of Generation Anthropocene, professor Julie Klinger speaks with producer Miles Traer about the geo-politics of rare earth elements, why they are considered rare, and the extreme lengths to which some people are planning to go in search of them.

This piece is a collaboration between Generation Anthropocene and the Stanford Storytelling project.

Related podcasts by Generation Anthropocene:

Creating an Equation for Cities May Solve Ecological Conundrums

How a Farming Project in Brazil Turned Into a Social and Ecological Tragedy

How Geography Shaped Societies, From Neanderthals to iPhones

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