Everything we humans do has an impact on Mother Earth. This is something that indigenous people have always understood. Modern society, however, is about making life more convenient, more interesting, more enjoyable, often at the expense of that which we seek. Originally, cars were lauded as a very convenient means of transportation. We can time our trips, chauffeur our children, run out for a single grocery item we have to have, but as housing becomes more expensive in cities, humans find them stuck in frustrating traffic to get to their jobs. It costs us our peace of mind. In the meantime our exhaust contributes to more cases of asthma and other respiratory diseases.
Electric cars are sought as part of the solution to cut air pollution, but they too come with a cost, and worse detracts from ramping up public transportation. When I took a train to teach at San Jose State University, I could grade papers, prepare for class, or just relax.
Lithium is a rare metal required for EV batteries, our too smart phones, and tablets. While not like mining coal, mining lithium does not come without cost to the environment. One of the richest sources is in Chile’s Atacama desert. The mining of it is described as “clean.” Indeed, it may be, but it consumes huge sources of water from the area, which has a major negative environmental impact on the lives of indigenous people who have lived off the desert for 12,000 years. Flamingos that used to abound are now threatened. To me it is another example of the greed of wealthy corporations to mine or process fuel where the subsequent pollution is in poor
. The mineral is just different.
Fortunately, there are scientists who are very aware of such issues. Luckily the Salton Sea, a virtual wasteland in California — described by Palm Springs Life magazine in 2020 as the biggest environmental disaster in California history — contains an abundance of lithium 8000 ft below its barren surface. Further, the lithium is contained in a scalding-hot brine. The heat from the brine has been tapped for geothermal power for decades, but now companies are looking at extracting the lithium. Even though no one is dependent on the water, the lithium can be extracted by an absorption process rather than by evaporation as in the Atacama, and the leftover saltwater reinserted into the ground creating a minimal impact. The energy required by the operation will be provided by the geothermal heat. This is the genius of Australian Rod Colwell.
One thing that bugs me is self-driving cars. For them to drive autonomously, large amounts of computing power to run sophisticated algorithms and onboard camera systems to navigate traffic safely are required. In other words large amounts of energy. I understand we are addicted to energy. We all want comfortable temperatures in our homes, music & movies at our fingertips, easy ways to cook & wash our clothes at minimum. However, do we really need every imaginable energy-sucking convenience? Do we really need to exchange our smart phones, iPads, and every whizbang every one or two years, wasting precious lithium?
The book Braiding Sweetgrass charmingly describes an indigenous tribe in the SW as believing that Earth’s resources from Mother Earth are gifts. As a result, they don’t take more than they need and never deplete. While Earth’s population is not such that it can live off the gifts any longer, I believe we desperately need to discontinue our mindset and practice of Earth’s exploitation in exchange for sustainability and the Hippocratic Oath of First Do No Harm.
Major Source: Sierra Club Magazine Winter 2022
 Over Heated is a book that identifies corporations, CEOs and their practices along with their subterfuge to appear to be environmentally conscious, joining up with environmental organization like foxes in the henhouses.