A lithium mine threatens Thacker Pass: The Climate Minute's Lithium Series (Episode 4)

As the global demand for new lithium surges, a pristine spot in Nevada is slated for an open pit lithium mine. An ongoing encampment at Thacker Pass offers resistance. Listen in to activist and author Max Wilbert, who raises difficult questions such as: When we speak of sustainability, are we sustaining life, or just a life-style?

The reading list:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


Troubling facts about lithium mining: The Climate Minute's Lithium Series (Episode 3)

If we don’t recycle it, then we must mine new lithium. We speak with an expert from EarthWorks on the troubling truth that lithium mining, from brine or ‘hard rock’ is damaging to local environments and communities. We discuss how to tell if your lithium is responsibly sourced.

The reading list:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


Lithium at the critical juncture: The Climate Minute's Lithium Series (Episode2)

Mining lithium for EV batteries puts the tradeoff of green transport and local environmental damage in high relief. We talk to an expert- Professor Thea Riofrancos of Providence College, who has studied the question. Her advice is to look at the current moment as a 'critical juncture' that will define our path into the decarbonized future, but also to try to imagine a middle ground where we have a green society that does not destroy local habitats.

The reading list:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


Looking at the Energy Transition through the Lithium Lens: The Climate Minute Lithium Series

As heat waves and floods assault us, humans are in the midst of a great societal energy transition. We must find ways to decarbonize. The question is no longer if, but rather how, to build the clean energy system we need. The coming changes are so broad that they can be hard to comprehend. It is helpful to narrow the discussion. In this series of podcasts, we study the big question of "how" to build a new future thru the lens of a specific issue: the production and use of lithium. Listen in as we dip our toes into the oceans of questions about how to build a just energy transition.

Batteries are essential to practical renewable energy systems, as well as the electric vehicles so central to our thinking about the economy. The atomic element lithium is essential to the manufacture of batteries. As demand for lithium skyrockets in the wake of increased EV production, we must ask "where is that lithium coming from?" Raw lithium is most often found near marginalized communities, be it the Atacama Desert in South America or near indigenous lands in Nevada. The current methods of mining lithium are extremely damaging to land and communities that surround the resource. The moral question is this: does the supposed benefit of 'an EV in every garage" outweigh the clear damage done by lithium mining? Are sacrifice zones acceptable so that we can drive EVs? Or should we phrase the question more gently and ask how we can build a green future and preserve local communities.

In this series of podcasts we will talk to several experts:

  • Professor Thea Riofrancos of Providence College tells us about the 'critical junction' at which our society stands. Our decision now will determine the future.
  • Benjamin Hitchcock Auciello of Earthworks discusses the nature of lithium mining and the opportunities for recycling.
  • Author Max Wilbert, currently encamped at Thacker Pass, asks if an EV is a right or a privilege.
  • Professor Barry Gan of Saint Bonaventure University helps us understand how Gandhi's ideas on non-violence can help us manage the 'ends vs means' questions.
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Peak days need a shave! The Climate Minute

It turns out that those hot humid August days are great opportunities to take climate action. We talk with an expert about how to cut carbon emissions and save money, by participating in Green Energy Consumer Alliance's "Shave the Peak" program. It is free and will make you feel better about the heat.

The reading list:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


Theologia Solis: The Climate Minute

How do you build a moral code based on principles the Sun has ‘taught’ us? How can we incorporate scientific lessons about ecological systems into our lives?

The reading list:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre

 


Green Prophets, Climate Saints and Eco-Bodhisattvas: The Climate Minute

In honor of the summer solstice, we got thinking about how the onrush of climate change demands rethinking of our moral, ethical and perhaps even religious stance to life. Should we treat the sun as a god? Who would be our saints?

Recently we posted discussion on how reasonable a solar deity actually is, because the sun:

  • is real
  • created us
  • sustains our life
  • teaches us how to live
  • inspires awe.

Discussing new religions, or at least new moral philosophies, can seem presumptuous or even ridiculous. However, religions are human creations and there is a long American tradition of spiritual innovation. The book "Restless Souls" make the connection of modern day "New Age" religions to a history going back to the founding of our country as a place of religious freedom. Further, Reza Aslan's's book "Zealot" makes the case that the success of the Catholic Church was Saint Paul's accommodation of the revolutionary teachings of Christ to the Roman hunger for a personal connection to the divine. Go figure.

Climate change is an overwhelming, all pervasive inevitability that humans will need to come to terms with. The sooner and more constructively this happens the better. An earth-based religion that honors the gift, teachings and demands of the planetary ecological system is not far fetched and could help people justify and rationalize the necessary actions that face us. Centering such beliefs on the power of the sun (and moon etc) is pragmatic and foundational for other aspects of new thinking.

The problem with a solar deity is that it is impersonal. In the time of the Caesars, Roman religion was transactional, and mostly involved sacrificing a goat to Jupiter. People wanted something more personal and found it in a church with a human god-figure and a saint's holiday every day. Buddhism is one of the world's great religions, described as the world's only logical, intellectual religion. However the very austerity of practices like Zen soon called out more personal connections. The Bodhisattva was a kind human who delayed entry to Nirvana to help others on the path. Even today, evangelical Christian seek a 'personal Jesus.'

So if we are constructing an earth based religion with solar deity, we probably need some more human connection to the awe inspiring profundity of life. Fortunately, we do have humanity in the core of the philosophy. The solar deity in fact does have multiple prophets calling us to our senses and predicting the future. The prophets have names like Bill McKibben, Al Gore, Katharine Hayhoe and Michael Mann. Do not be fooled by their humanity. Even Elijah was human. In fact, these green prophets have been rejected in their own lands.

We have among us eco-bodhisattvas- meet Greta Thunberg who sailed across the Atlantic instead of using fossil fuels. If you liked Joan of Arc, you will love Greta. She has already suffered the fires of hatred from overbearing men. We have tribal elders who can teach us ways to preserve the land. We have climate saints- consider Eunice Foote, who discovered the role of CO2. We have Seraphim, Cherubim, Angels and Archangels among us, all the people who are standing strong today against Line 3, or in Cancer Ally, or stood against Dakota Access. We have hero's galore to construct a pantheon of humans to help us relate to the planet. We just need to think of them in the right way.

So there you have an idea. The implication of climate change is so profound as to force us to rethink our beliefs at a nearly religious level. The Sun is a worthwhile deity, and we can construct a pantheon of green prophets, climate saints and eco-bodhisattvas to guide us on the way to a better relationship with the planet.

The reading list:

https://www.massclimateaction.org/the_case_for_a_solar_deity_june_20_2021

David Christian: The history of our world in 18 minutes

https://www.thriftbooks.com/w/restless-souls-the-making-of-american-spirituality_leigh-eric-schmidt/483376/

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/201653/zealot-by-reza-aslan/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zealot:_The_Life_and_Times_of_Jesus_of_Nazareth

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elijah

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eunice_Newton_Foote

http://www.katharinehayhoe.com/wp2016/

https://michaelmann.net/

https://inspiration.org/daily-devotional/prophet-without-honor/

What is a Bodhisattva?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greta_Thunberg

Bodhisattva

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


The Case for a Solar Deity: The Climate Minute

The Summer Solstice is a reminder of the role the Sun plays in our lives. The sun has a lot of interesting attributes: It exists, it gives us life, it controls the planet and it teaches us how to live. We would do well to give it more honor and respect.

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


The Treasure of Urban Hiking: The Climate Minute

We talk with author and journalist Miles Howard about urban hiking, and why you should try it.

The reading list:

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre


Petition to Rethink: The Climate Minute

A petition with more than 1000 signatures was presented to MMWEC’s CEO. The petition asked that proposed Peabody Peaker Plant be withdrawn, and better alternatives considered. Listen in to the press conference following the submission of the petition.

The reading list:

Mr. Ronald C. DeCurzio
Chief Executive Officer
Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company
327 Moody St, Ludlow, MA 01056

We, the undersigned community members, advocates, organizations, and elected officials are gravely concerned about MMWEC’s continued efforts to develop Special Project 2015A, a 60 MW natural gas and oil peaker power plant located in Peabody, Massachusetts. Our concerns, described below, center primarily around the Environmental Justice impact this project will have on local community members, especially given that the plant will contribute to the cumulative impacts of pollution that local communities will face. Additionally, moving forward with the peaker plant is counterproductive to Municipal Light Plants’ ongoing effort to combat climate change and transition to a clean energy future. This is especially the case in light of new State Policy, which establishes an emissions standard for Municipal Light Plants.

According to applications for permits, Special Project 2015A will emit nearly 51,000 tons of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year - the equivalent of adding 11,000 combustion engine cars to Massachusetts' roads each year. Furthermore, the peaker plant will require installing a natural gas compressor to increase natural gas pressure, a new 200,000-gallon oil tank, a 90-foot smokestack and a new 2,500 to 7,500-gallon tank to hold either aqueous urea or the hazardous gas, aqueous ammonia. This activity will not only have a highly detrimental impact on our environment and climate, but it will also further burden neighboring environmental justice communities with worsening air pollution and continued poor health.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection, there are two communities designated as Environmental Justice communities within half a mile of the proposed project, and a school less than a quarter-mile away. These communities already face increased exposure to harmful pollutants from the 68 MW in peaker power already installed at the proposed site of construction. Given their intermittent yet frequent output, peaker power plants generally emit higher levels of pollutants per unit of energy compared to other energy facilities. Peaker plants respond to high energy demand. Therefore, it can be reasonably expected that the plant already installed will run concurrently with Special Project 2015A, thus exacerbating the health impacts already present in neighboring communities. While claims have been made that the plant currently in operation will be retired, there have been no indications of this action being taken. At a time when alternative solutions are available, further exposing Environmental Justice communities to harmful pollutants is an option that we cannot accept.

Special Project 2015A is also unreasonable in light of the climate crisis the Commonwealth and global community faces. Scientists tell us that we stand "on the brink of failure when it comes to holding global warming to moderate levels" unless we take "unprecedented actions" to cut carbon emissions over the next decade. In January, Governor Baker committed the Commonwealth to an ambitious target of net zero emissions, noting that "meeting this challenge will require bold action and partnership throughout every sector of the economy." Finally, the legislature just passed bold legislation that puts the Commonwealth in a position to address the climate crisis. Notable in this legislation is the inclusion of a non-emitting standard for Municipal Light Plants - the first of its kind in the Commonwealth - which establishes a net-zero target by 2050. Instead of assisting in this mandatory target, Special Project 2015A inhibits Municipal Light Plants (MLPs) in achieving this goal by financially committing the 14 participating Municipal Light Plants to a dirty energy source for at least 30 years. In addition, the rapid energy transition in the Commonwealth and across New England will likely result in the need to retire Special Project 2015A before 2050 - leaving it to be a stranded asset that customers of participating MLPs will be stuck paying off for years after it has stopped supplying energy.

In 2021 alternative and affordable solutions to natural gas peaker plants are viable and economical. These alternatives were perhaps not as viable in 2015 when this project was proposed, however, MLPs must begin investing resources that move the state towards our carbon emission reduction goals. A 60 MW battery storage facility connected to either the grid or solar is not only technically feasible, it could be price competitive with Special Project 2015A. Despite this being a widely understood notion in the energy community, the permitting application for Special Project 2015A does not consider or rule out the viability of clean alternatives such as battery and storage to meet the demand claimed. Given that the project was delayed by more than four years, excluding an analysis of clean alternatives and cumulative impacts does a disservice to participating MLPs and the communities that will be adversely impacted by this project.

Taking these concerns into account, we call on you, as the Chief Executive Officer of MMWEC to withdraw the proposal to move forward with this project and, instead, replace it with a project that will reduce the burden on the communities of Peabody and Danvers, and support participating Municipal Light Plants in becoming leaders of the Commonwealth’s transition to a clean, renewable future.

Because we recognize the necessity of personal accountability for our actions, because we accept responsibility for a building a durable future and because we believe it is our patriotic duty as citizens to speak out, we must insist the United States transform it’s energy sector, over the next decade, under a just and equitable plan, that uses regulations, investments and a price on carbon to safeguard our collective future.

Thanks for listening.

…Ted McIntyre



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