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For hundreds of millions of years, nature has governed the biogeochemical cycles that have shaped the diverse geology and biology of Earth, but now, within a few kilometers of the surface, where the cycles are most complex, humans are mining and redistributing material at such a rapid rate that many elements of the periodic table are already in crucially short supply, or they are under threat to become so in the next few decades.

It is not just water and fossil fuels that are affected by our consumption. Top-down and bottom-up analyses make clear that many of the accessible elemental...

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