Note — Dec 13, 2020

The Curse of ’White Oil’: Electric Vehicles’ Dirty Secret

Good piece on lithium, where it’s produced, the impacts on those communities, and the two forms in which it’s found in nature. One of the most frustrating things about this is that there is no systemic thinking, other than trying to understand how to make more money. If there was a global, sustained project to lower massively the number of cars, then perhaps lithium mining could be seen as a net-positive, but the way it’s going now, with a race for more profit and the idea shared by many that simply replacing cars with electric cars will work, we are just, again, shovelling our problems forward.

“So much destruction,” she said. “And for what? So eco-minded urbanites in Paris and Berlin can feel good about driving around in zero-emission cars.” […]

The weight of their evidence – shrinking pasturelands, failing crops, disappearing flora and fauna – all point towards a process of desertification which they believe is exacerbated by lithium extraction. The impact of disturbing a “huge, complex hydrological system” is not visible from one day to the next, said Balcázar. “But the two are interlinked, without any doubt.” […]

As Thea Riofrancos at Providence College pointed out, if everyone were to adopt “rational forms of transport” – such as trains, trams, e-buses, cycling and car-sharing – then demand for passenger vehicles of all kinds would shrink overnight.