Embodied energy and entangled relations of concrete: aggregates production and informal mining as livelihood-making

Authors: Pryor Placino*, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Development
Keywords: livelihoods, concrete, aggregates, diverse economies, informal mining
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Napoleon A1, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Research on the production of building materials highlights the implications of the amount of energy and carbon embodied in the extraction, manufacturing and transportation of these inputs to construction. The production of cement, which is a major component of concrete, contributes to about 5 to 7 percent of global anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions (Worrell et al., 2001). However, the entangled social and economic relations associated with the diverse arrangements and practices of producing building materials also require critical interrogation. Without consideration of these relations, controversies around building materials tend to solely focus on their technical aspects rather than problematizing their constitutive material politics. Moreover, framing the production of building materials in a landscape of economic diversity emancipates our representation of those economic practices from capitalocentrism (St. Martin, Roelvink & Gibson-Graham, 2015; Gibson-Graham, 2006). My presentation talks about the co-making of building materials and livelihoods. I share a glimpse of how the production of aggregates enables and results from livelihood-making in urban informal quarries in the Philippines. In particular, I talk about the challenges and opportunities of making a livelihood together with aggregates. Aggregates make up about 70 percent of the mass of concrete (Alexander and Mindess, 2005). I also share some of my speculations on how the co-making of building materials and livelihoods in the future could address some of the contradictions presented in my case study.

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