Renewable energy, the future of mining, and the re-localization of harm
In This Series
The transition to a post-carbon energy economy will require extraction. Whatever the shape of the coming transition away from fossil fuels, the need to understand the social and distributional costs of a changing energy infrastructure has never been greater. Through a series of reports, convenings, and events, this ongoing research project surveys the state of minerals production, near-future ploys for extra-terrestrial mining, and the persistent externalities of extraction.
Project lead: Francis Tseng.
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Inside Out: A Report
Recent years have seen growing attention to the material requirements of information technologies, and especially to the social and environmental harms of sourcing rare earths and cobalt. Researchers highlight, for example, the dependence of electric vehicles and wind power infrastructure on rare earths, or batteries on lithium. But these discussions have tended to omit questions regarding the necessity of extraction, relying instead on a more familiar idiom of consumer and corporate responsibility. Both the Trump administration’s vision of celestial expansion and some visions of a post-carbon future depend, stated or not, upon a continuing regime of mineral extraction and outsourced harm.
Read the summary blog post here.
Read the comprehensive report here.
Read the press release here.
Inside Out: A Conversation
JFI convened a live Twitter conversation between experts and advocates in renewable energy, economics, geology, indigenous rights, land rights, and related issues. The Twitter chat hosted Francis alongside Thea Riofrancos, Daniel Aldana Cohen, Professor Julie Klinger, Ingrid Burrington, Frederico Freitas, Kathryn Goodenough, Jamie Kneen with Rabble Canada and Mining Watch.
Rural and urban areas alike suffer from the toxic effects of extraction, though extractive sources of pollution can be less visible in urban contexts. In both cases, harm is structured by class and race. The flipside is that shared harm can be basis for solidarity and coalitions.
Ideally the conversation would move away from resource depletion, which really isn’t the issue, to consider how we will extract these metals in an efficient way that minimizes damages to the environment and society - and indeed, maximizes benefit to communities.
We have to focus on the geographies of mining from multiple angles. We can’t treat the mines as snowglobes and only look for pollution there. Nor can we treat cities as snowglobes, and only look for pollution there. We need a planetary approach.
—Daniel Aldana Cohen
View the archived conversation here.
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