From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future
Hardcover : 9780889777866, 272 pages, October 2020
A fascinating history of the carbon footprint of our concrete world—from ancient Roman architecture to urban cityscapes—and the trouble it spells for sustainability amidst rapid climate change.
For readers of The Sixth Extinction and The Uninhabitable Earth, Concrete explores the history of a material that has been central to architecture and design for thousands of years—and what its future looks like in a world experiencing rapid climate change.
Imagine a world without concrete: there’d be no skyscrapers, no grand irrigation projects, no out of season vegetables, no highways. There would be a shortage of electricity, more mud in some places, more solitude in others. But because of the fossil fuels and other resources required to make concrete, there also would also be less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and less dramatic climate change. In Concrete: From Ancient Origins to a Problematic Future, Mary Soderstrom tells the story of concrete’s surprising past, extravagant present, and uncertain future with careful research, lively anecdotes, and thoughtful reflection.
"A very readable, thoughtful and well-documented account of a material that helps and hurts us in almost equal measure. " —The Tyee
“[For] those of us who are thinking about, and educating for, deep cultural change, . . . for those of us that care about what it means to be good, in the deepest sense; to participants in an earth-system that is failing at human hands, in the context of recognizing the repercussions of the Anthropocene. ” —Laura Sewall, author of Sight and Sensibility: The Ecopsychology of Perception
“A fascinating and overdue account of one of the world’s most important, least appreciated materials. ” —Vince Beiser, author of The World in a Grain: The Story of Sand and How it Transformed Civilization
“Soderstrom delivers a globe-trotting tale full of fascinating details and unexpected detours, adding texture and contrast to a material that too often fades into the background. " —Christopher DeWolf, author of Borrowed Spaces: Life Between the Cracks of Modern Hong Kong
“Soderstrom’s beautifully written book is full of fascinating information. Concrete traces the material and its use from ancient times to contemporary architectural projects. It is a voyage through time and places which along the way cast new light on a material that shaped the way we build and live. I very much enjoyed reading it…. I have been teaching construction for decades believing the I knew all that there was to know about concrete. Soderstorm’s latest book is full of information which cleverly combines technical data, historic milestones, and carefully selected old and contemporary architectural projects to make for a fascinating read. ” —Avi Friedman, Professor of Architecture, McGill University
"The book offers a major shift in the way we should think of concrete. " —rabble. ca
"She doesn’t offer any easy answers, but by making concrete accessible to more people, Soderstrom invites us all to become more aware of, and curious about, our increasingly unsustainable attachment to the version of the world that it makes possible. " —Montreal Review of Books
"In Concrete, Mary Soderstrom aims to deepen our awareness of a substance that shapes and, increasingly, threatens our lives. While she acknowledges its many undeniable benefits, she focuses on the very real effects of its continued use in an era of climate crisis. " —Literary Review of Canada
""If concrete sounds like a dry subject to you, think again. " —Montreal Centre Ville