. Introduction: material dependence

1.1 Introduction and synopsis

This book is about materials: the environmental aspects of their produc­tion, their use, their disposal at end of life, and ways to choose and design with them to minimize adverse influence. Environmental harm caused by industrialization is not new. The manufacturing midlands of 18th-century

Renewable and nonrenewable construction. Above: Indian village reconstruction. (Image courtesy of Kevin Hampton, www. wm. edu/niahd/journals.) Below: Tokyo at night. (Image courtesy of www. photoeverywhere. co. uk index.)

England acquired the nickname the "Black Country" with good reason; to evoke the atmosphere of 19th-century London, Sherlock Holmes movies show scenes of thick fog, known as "pea-soupers," swirling round the gas lamps of Baker Street. These were localized problems that have largely been corrected today. The change now is that some aspects of industrialization have begun to influence the environment on a global scale. Materials are implicated in this climate change. As responsible materials engineers and scientists, we should try to understand the nature of the problem (it is not simple) and to explore what, constructively, we can do about it.

This chapter introduces the key role that materials have played in advancing technology and the dependence—addiction might be a better word—that it has bred. Addictions demand to be fed, and this demand, coupled with the continued growth of the human population, consumes resources at an ever-increasing rate. This situation has not, in the past, limited growth; the earth’s resources are, after all, very great. But there is increasing awareness that limits do exist, that we are approaching some of them, and that adapting to them will not be easy.