Monday, October 04, 2010

Scorched Earths

The People's Republic of China controls 95% of the world's rare earths. To a chemist, this is a statement that should already hint at the world that is to come. A small number of nations appear to control petroleum, but the USA and USSR used to be net exporters while convincing everybody that the Arabs were sitting on all of it. And petroleum and natural gas are to be had all round the world.

But the Chinese control 95% of the world's rare earths. What does that mean? It means that catalysts, electronics, and about 500 other industries will all be paying higher and higher amounts to the Chinese, should they decide to clamp down on export. It is the reason I once said that if one could invest, one should invest in Chinese rare-earth mines. If. Failing which, of course, one should buy up the remaining 5% as much as possible. A lot of that, however, is in places like Mongolia. Or Tibet. And maybe Afghanistan.

It's hard to think of the educational future when the syllabi and curricula of this present moment are constructed on abstract premises that don't quite meet the realities of the world, the flesh and the Devil. Natural sciences, human sciences, and applied sciences, that is, for many of the people in these benighted days.

And what of the humanities and aesthetics? I think they ought to have been removed from the formal curriculum a long time ago.

What? Why?

Because the humanities and aesthetics should have been made part of our lives ages ago. That they have to be taught to young people shows us what a hash we've made of things in the name of pragmatism. The old ways of telling the young where we've come from, what our family, clan, community and social history is all about — those things are rare. And an appreciation of aesthetics, most often found in the young, evanesces too quickly and is gone.

So the second best solution is to keep the humanities and aesthetics prominent, while working out a curriculum that will teach people why the fact that China controls 95% of the world's rare earths is a very significant fact indeed.

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