A roundup of news, views and ideas from the mainstream press and the blogosphere. Click on the headline link to see the full article.


Bolivia and Climate Change’s Great Lithium Problem

Kate Aronoff, New Republic
The crisis in Bolivia has an urgent message for environmental policy in the United States.

Bolivia is in the midst of a brutal upheaval. Following weeks of protests, armed forces have compelled longtime, left-leaning President Evo Morales to step down after reports of “manipulations” in last October’s vote and Morales’s subsequent call for new elections. Morales has sought asylum in Mexico, as right-wing and in some cases neo-fascist elements round up members of his party and burn the wiphala, the flag of the Aymara and Quechuan peoples.

Amidst all this, some on the left began to speculate on a disturbing subplot. Days before resigning, Morales had pulled out of a lithium mining deal with the German company ACI Systems Alemania, or ACISA. Lithium is an essential ingredient of the batteries that power electric vehicles, smart phones, e-bikes, solar panels and more. ACISA is a supplier for Tesla, stock of which rose sharply after news of Morales’s ouster broke. Not unreasonably—given the history of the region—some journalists and politicians began asking: Had this all just been yet another plot by Western Powers to seize a valuable commodity for multinational corporations?

The short answer is no. There are several factors that have contributed to recent protests:

… While it’s certainly possible that the CIA yet again involved itself in Latin American politics—we may not find out definitively for years—multinationals’ desire to capture Bolivia’s lithium market likely was not what got Morales booted out of office.

,,, Over half of the world’s lithium reserves are held in South America in the Andes’ otherworldly, high-altitude salt flats formed from lakes of lithium-rich brine. Mining companies remove that and transport it to massive evaporation ponds to sit in the sun for months or even years.

… It seems like an impossible bind: Even if the global economy manages to transition off of fossil fuels it will simply sub out one kind of harmful extraction for another. The future of technology metal mining in South America and elsewhere could look eerily similar to centuries of colonial exploitation, dressed up as environmentalism:
(16 Nov 2019)
Important article. However I am dubious about the author’s presumption that this was not “a plot by Western Powers to seize a valuable commodity for multinational corporations.” The CIA etc. don’t advertise their attempts to topple governments. The events have followed the usual pattern of US involvement. US politicians and the press have lauded the coup (including Democrats). My guess that the US exploited local actors behind the scenes. -BA


Apple co-founder: ‘I’ve really given up’ on Level 5 [self-driving cars]

Vince Bond Jr., Automotive News
There was a time when Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak was a believer in fully autonomous vehicles.

… But he has since tempered his expectations. There is simply too much unpredictability on roads, he said, for a self-driving car to manage. For now, he believes the burgeoning technology is better used to give drivers a safety net for certain situations.
(28 Oct 2019)
Not to mention the main reasons that most people buy cars – status and self-expression. Does a young man impress his date by pulling up in a utilitarian vehicle driven by a robot? -BA.


Regenerative businesses in a degenerative economic system?

Daniel Christian Wahl, Medium
Can regenerative economics & mainstream business mix?
Or, is it even possible to create regenerative businesses in a degenerative economic system?
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The title question and the quote above are part of an invitation to business leaders to join a morning conversation at The Conduit in the centre of London (Nov. 8th, 2019). I will be one of four speakers who are meant to stimulate a collective exploration.

…I firmly believe that we need to focus on transformative rather than incremental change now that there is a sudden surge in interest by many large corporations and international business in going beyond sustainability, being net-positive and aiming to be regenerative.

This is a pilgrimage into ‘terra incognita’ for all involved. Most of the companies now exploring regeneration are still far from the zero negative impact that would characterise them as ‘sustainable’. So it serves to keep in mind that sustainability is still an important bridge we have not yet crossed !

The step from sustainability to regeneration is more than a change in simple terminology. It is a change in mindset and worldview that will drive profound transformation. Yet there is no need to dismiss anyone striving for sustainability on the journey towards a regenerative human impact on Earth.
(7 Nov 2019)
Hat tip to Albert Bates for pointing out these last two articles. He’s a good person to follow on Facebook. -BA

Photo: “Demonstrations in La Paz, Bolivia against electoral fraud and the government of Evo Morales.” (23 October 2019). Photographer: Paulo Fabre. VIa Wikimedia Commons.  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Manifestaciones_en_La_Paz,_Bolivia_en_contra_el_fraude_electoral_y_el_gobierno_de_Evo_Morales.jpg