Rust: The Longest War
by Jonathan Waldman
Simon & Schuster, 2015 ($26.95)
Of all the environmental challenges threatening worldwide infrastructure, rust, journalist Waldman admits, is not “sexy.” It creeps in gradually and seems like more of an aesthetic blight than a dire danger to the modern machinery our society depends on. Yet rust is costlier than all other natural disasters combined, Waldman explains, and the science of corrosion, along with the ingenious engineering strategies humans have devised to fight it, is fascinating. Rust “seizes up weapons, manhandles mufflers, destroys highway guardrails, and spreads like a cancer in concrete,” he writes. Waldman attends “Can School,” interviews rust experts and visits the Alaska pipeline, among other adventures, to illuminate the myriad attacks rust makes on our daily lives. In doing so, he adds luster to a substance considered synonymous with dullness.