This is a brief look at the phrase ‘rare earth’ from three different angles.
The first version is the well known economic sound bite we see on the internet. The second is a petition to your instinct to recognize the planet earth for what it is. And the third is a bit of a stretch.
Rare earth elements (REE) is a funny saying. These are the minerals; Neodymium (Nd), Cerium (Ce), Europium (Eu) and 14 more that are used in the manufacture and function of cell phones, big screens and military components among other technologies.
The term rare earth was coined when an unusual black rock was unearthed by a miner in Ytterby, Sweden, in 1788. The ore was called “rare” because it had never been seen before and “earth” because that was the 18th-century geological term for rocks that could be dissolved in acid. (www.sciencehistory.org)
The term ‘rare earth’ has taken on new meaning. Specifically in relation to the need we have prescribed them. We need these minerals to make our cell phones and we are cranking out a lot of cellphones. As of 2021 there are more than 12 billion cell phones out there. More than 1 per person. So we have created a need for a lot of minerals. And of course there are always shareholders to appease and answer to. So it seems the rare part of the term has morphed to be in reference to the ease of getting these elements to market. Which actually means they are discovered in places that are far away from the manufacturing sites and shopping centres. On top of that it is rare that they are found in concentrations that make extraction commercially viable.
Rare earth elements are an essential part of many high-tech devices. The U.S. Geological Survey news release “Going Critical” explains:
“Rare-earth elements (REE) are necessary components of more than 200 products across a wide range of applications, especially high-tech consumer products, such as cellular telephones, computer hard drives, electric and hybrid vehicles, and flat-screen monitors and televisions. Significant defense applications include electronic displays, guidance systems, lasers, and radar and sonar systems. Although the amount of REE used in a product may not be a significant part of that product by weight, value, or volume, the REE can be necessary for the device to function. For example, magnets made of REE often represent only a small fraction of the total weight, but without them, the spindle motors and voice coils of desktops and laptops would not be possible. (https://www.americangeosciences.org/critical-issues/faq/what-are-rare-earth-elements-and-why-are-they-important)
Peering down at these elements with our economic blinders we are gasping at the reality that the process to extract them from their home – in ore – is costly. So the elements indeed are rare to the human ‘make buck – I don’t give a f**k’ mindset. They are not rare to the planet. They are her elements after all.
Another way of looking at the phrase ‘rare earth’ is that indeed, the planet Earth is rare. There is only one.
We tear up, heat up, and dirty up the planet Earth to sift out what is of use to us so that we can post a photo on Instagram of what we are having for dinner. Modern technology is not bad; it is amazing the speed and precision and applications where it can be used. The price of producing the technology can be quite damaging to the life of the planet, rivers, animals, planets and people. That is not good business. That is robbing Peter to pay Paul. It is stealing from tomorrow to be comfortable today. The extraction and processing of these minerals is labour intensive and has several toxic by-products.
This disposable mentality we have slid into is defining our relationship with the earth. This attitude of needy ignorance could be seen to parallel our outlook on the ‘rare earth’ of the human. Specifically the higher human faculties of mind and soul. Territories that are known to exist however found to be difficult to access and apply into daily life.
The third look at the term rare earth shines light on the territory of the higher human faculty. This is not a topic we cover in our education systems – though it’s a potential experience for each breathing person. These are the realms of human purpose. Human purpose being considered the merging of the mind according to soul categories to have the leverage to join the spiritual trajectory. It is rare that many people gather on this level. The spiritual pioneer Jidduh Krishnamurti, who died in 1986, was someone who wanted people to do this kind of work for themselves. To have this natural experience of self elevation so they can be drawn up into the trajectory of spirit. And so he shared what he had learned. And it has benefited the world in small yet indelible way,
Truth is a pathless land. Man cannot come to it through any organisation, through any creed, through any dogma, priest or ritual, nor through any philosophic knowledge or psychological technique. He has to find it through the mirror of relationship, through the understanding of the contents of his own mind, through observation and not through intellectual analysis or introspective dissection…
Krishnamurti was concerned with all humanity and stated repeatedly that he held no nationality or belief and belonged to no particular group or culture. In the latter part of his life, he travelled mainly between the schools he had founded in India, Britain and the United States, which educate for the total understanding of man and the art of living. He stressed that only this profound understanding can create a new generation that will live in peace.