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Sources: CP staff; Bill Gates’ gatesnotes blog

In “Have You Hugged a Concrete Pillar Today?,”  Microsoft founder Bill Gates takes stock of Making the Modern World: Materials and Dematerialization, the latest work from his favorite author: “[Vaclav Smil] argues that the most important man-made material is concrete, both in terms of the amount we produce each year and the total mass we’ve laid down.”

“Concrete is the foundation (literally) for the massive expansion of urban areas of the past several decades, which has been a big factor in cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half since 1990. In 1950, the world made roughly as much steel as cement (a key ingredient in concrete); by 2010, steel production had grown by a factor of 8, but cement had gone up by a factor of 25,” writes Gates, who opens his blog post referencing the 15,000 tons of concrete supporting the four miles of surface streets between his home and office.