Fridays for the Future #3: Lithium is the new secret ingredient

“The climate is changing! We need to do something!” Put that reality into the media grinder and you get a thousand good podcasts enumerating the problems associated with taking action. I appreciated the first episode of a new podcast associated with the NPR Marketplace show called How We Survive. It starts out with the topic of batteries, which are crucial for storing the renewable energy and sustaining alternative technologies to replace using fossil fuels.   We need a lot of batteries and we need them fast if we want to make a difference — do you think we even have ten years left before it is too late? Batteries need lithium and China controls a lot of it. So of course, people in the U.S. are looking for American lithium.

The story of getting lithium is where this podcast begins its journey. As I listened to it, I wished I was binging it, since it made it clear we don’t have time to spend thirteen weeks finding out how we survive! Regardless, I want to give you a taste of an early episode and some of the morsels it provided.

Getting lithium means mining. In the case the podcast highlighted, it means a new mine outside of Orovada, Nevada near Thacker Pass on lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. On the last Friday of Trump’s administration, the BLM approved it. The new Secretary of the Dept. of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, is a fan of the plan if the lithium is extracted responsibly (Review Journal). The New York Times, at least, thinks such responsibility is unlikely (their take).

George Ireland, Chairman of the Board

The proposed mine is a project of LithiumAmericas. You’ll probably want to look at their “About” page if you, like me, have little awareness of the people who dominate the land and air, and maybe the future. Their plan includes a hole the area of 5000 football fields. Plus, they plan to bring three trucks an hour 24/7/365 through Orovada full of sulfur for making the sulfuric acid needed for processing on site, then leaving with refined product. They promise they will build a fabulous new school away from the soon-to-be busy highway on which it now sits.

Opposition to the lithium mine

There is opposition to the Thacker Pass project. A couple of men associated with Deep Green Resistance are camped out on the pass to make their opposition known. DGR is a radical environmental group (with whom I have a lot of sympathy) which got organized after Derrick Jensen wrote the book by the same name. I first got wind of them in 2019 and here they are in Nevada trying to do something. They have a website and they have a philosophy. They think trucks running night and day, putting a big hole in native land, making millions of electric cars that produce a lot of carbon to make, etc. is a bad solution. They would rather we dismantle consumer society. We can’t build back the environment better by using the same philosophy and tools that ruined it.

If you want to get into this argument you could visit yet another podcast: This Green Earth where Max Wilbert, another spokesperson for Deep Green Resistance talks about a book he co-authored titled Bright Green Lies – How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It. The book explores the rift between two (stereo)types of environmentalists. The first being the “deep greens,” who want to protect Earth by cutting back on consumption and restoring natural landscapes, and the “bright greens,” who believe improved technology in the form of solar, wind, and battery storage are all we need to roll back climate change. I did not explore how the binary labels originated, but you get the idea.

So up on Thatcher Pass the decamped men look for allies. They have some among the nearby Paiute/Shoshone folks who have a long history with the whole territory. Other Native Americans are delighted with the prospect of the mine producing more jobs. They have been working in mining for decades. Those who have benefited from mining jobs are happy they no longer live in houses without electricity or running water.

My own experience with lithium centers on how it is the main component of a drug used to help people with bipolar disorder. It is a bit ironic that every goal in the U.S. needing  cooperation ends up with people labeling at least two camps that don’t get along — a bit bipolar? You can see why dealing with the climate crisis is not easy.

If each of us just brings it down to how willing we are to change, personally, in order to bring harmony and hope to the present climate crisis, it probably won’t surprise anyone that government-approved LithiumAmericas trucks will soon be displacing school children and various endangered species while locals wonder about property values. I don’t know what you are actually doing, of course, so pardon my disrespect. I just don’t think we are changing fast enough in general, and I do think we know more about property values than we know about lithium.

We named our church Circle of Hope a long time ago. How about yours? It might be “New Life” since that seems popular.  It takes a lot of positive expectation to follow Jesus in this trying time, doesn’t it! I hope you are banded together in your own protest and solution-oriented response to climate change. Nothing is going to be easy but it is certainly a great time to be a serious Christian in a life-giving church! When have true Jesus followers been more necessary?

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