I read this week:
Cobalt Red, by Siddhart Kara: Of all the books I’ve recommended lately, I recommend Cobalt Red the top. If you believe imperialism, colonialism, and slavery are things of the past, you’re in for more than a rude awakening. You are funding it, especially if you like electric vehicles.
I often clarify that solar and wind are not clean, green, or renewable since they require fossil fuels to make, transport, operate, and decommission, as well as nonrenewable minerals. Cobalt Red reports how all rechargeable batteries are produces with what can only be called slave labor, as well as widespread injury, death, rape, displacement, theft, and more.
I recorded a podcast episode with Siddharth, so look for it soon. But read this book. It will help to read Heart of Darkness and King Leopold’s Ghost for more background on the Congo and the imperialism, colonialism, and slavery it’s suffered. He writes simply and eloquently. His access to mines and people operating them is amazing. His research is thorough.
You will never look at a cell phone or electric vehicle battery again.
One criticism: Kara puts ultimate responsibility on companies using these batteries: Tesla, Apple, etc. He documents how their claims of responsible sourcing are false shams and how they could with negligible effect to their profits pay the miners living wages and protect them from injury and death. But he stops short of pointing out that we the consumer can take responsibility. We don’t need to buy so many devices. We can drive less. What we buy we can go longer between replacements.
Tesla and Apple don’t buy their own products. We buy them. We are driving the system. Even if we can’t stop it yet, we can slow it way down. I used to get electronics early since I liked them but I haven’t bought a cell phone in about ten years. I haven’t bought a new computer in decades. Anyone can reduce, especially the people who buy most.
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