Mining for the Climate: Voices of Justice

Apr 26, 2024, 9:30 am11:30 am
PK-12 Community


Nathaniel Otjen, Ph.D
High Meadows Environmental Institute


Event Description

It is widely believed that expanding access to renewable energy infrastructure — from solar panels to wind turbines and electric vehicles — offers the only way to mitigate the effects of climate change and achieve a just energy transition. Students learn that addressing climate change requires urgent and large-scale technological solutions. These new technologies, however, depend upon large amounts of critical minerals that come from deep within the earth like lithium, copper, and cobalt. The average electric vehicle, for instance, requires six times the amount of critical minerals than a conventional vehicle with an internal combustion engine. Most critical minerals are currently sourced from outside the United States; yet, as renewable energy capacity expands and concerns about global supply chains grow, the US has begun to turn inward, establishing domestic mines often on land occupied by disadvantaged groups, including Indigenous tribes, impoverished landowners, and endangered species.

This seminar locates the growth of domestic mining within the contexts of climate adaptation policies, green capitalism, and colonialism, and makes the case that climate justice must consider the communities impacted by mines. We’ll also consider some possible solutions, including community consent, circular economies, and public transportation. We’ll listen to part of a podcast series developed with faculty and student colleagues on the topic of lithium mining, and we’ll reflect on whose voices count and which stories matter in discussions of renewable energy and climate justice. We’ll use these conversations to think more broadly about the role of voice and narrative in school administration and teaching. What kinds of narratives are being told about school, curricula, and public education, and who is telling them? What kinds of narratives should we be telling?