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TOPIC: environmental


Lithium Mining: How The Clean Energy Rush Repeats Old Cycles Of Global Exploitation

The search for clean energy is essential in an age of alarming climate change. Lithium extraction represents a great opportunity, but the maltreatment of communities affected by this extraction must be considered if we want to interrupt the vicious cycle of wealthy countries exploiting resource-rich countries.

COPIAPO — The scientific community continues to warn that burning fuels to obtain energy is simply not sustainable for the planet. Among all the alternatives that currently exist, perhaps the most popular one for the transportation sector is electric energy. At first glance, it sounds tempting: electric trains, cars and buses capable of transporting people over long distances, equipped with almost limitless batteries, and charging stations distributed throughout the territory.

But to make electric batteries, which are also found in mobile and portable devices, lithium is needed. This mineral is currently experiencing high demand precisely because of its large energy storage capacity. Extracting it requires large amounts of water and chemicals. This is where some people are already asking: can we justify everything, in the name of energy transition?

The largest sources of lithium in the world are found in brine deposits in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile, making them the focus of attention for investors. But indigenous communities that depend on these territories and the resources found there demand prior dialogue and informed consultation before allowing the extraction of the mineral.

"To us, the salt flat represents our entire life," explains Lesley Muñoz Rivera, a representative of the Colla community in Copiapo, Chile. "The salt flat is a water reservoir. When they propose to extract large quantities and tons of water to dry them in the sun and obtain this lithium carbonate, they are harming the water. I define the Colla people as a water-based community, and if we don't have water to live and provide for our animals or crops, how are we going to survive?"

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How Argentina Got Hooked On Overfishing — And How To Set Herself Free

Trawling in Argentine waters is wiping out marine life in the southern Atlantic. Whatever the money stakes, Argentina must expand those territorial waters where all fishing is banned.

BUENOS AIRES — Very few people know about trawl fishing, the chief method used to fish, indiscriminately and wastefully, in Argentine territorial waters. It has been used for over 50 years to catch hake (halibut) and prawn, two of the three species that constitute the local industry (the third being squid, which is caught another way).

Bottom trawling, if this is happening at the seafloor level, is "non-selective," and uses a vast, heavy net, 120 meters long and 45 wide, with a "mouth" that can reach 12 meters in height.

The monstrous contraption is submerged and dragged by a boat on the surface, engulfing everything in its path: fish, crustaceans, molluscs, mammals, etc. This means dragging up, and killing, all life in a particular zone just for hake and prawn.

Everything that rises dies before it is loaded onto these floating factories. Rays and sharks emerge as half-crushed remains, and are thrown back into the sea. Within minutes, a place teeming with life is turned into a graveyard.

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"Fox Guarding Henhouse" — Fury Over UAE Oil Sultan Heading COP Climate Talks

Even with months to go before the next COP, debate rages over who will chair it. Is it a miscalculation or a masterstroke to bring the head of an oil company to the table?


The controversy has already begun ahead of the next COP climate conference in November. The 28th United Nations Conference on Climate Change will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, one of the world's largest producers and exporters of oil.

Not only will the UAE host, but presiding over the conference will be Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and CEO of the National Oil Company (ADNOC).

“It's like a fox guarding the henhouse,” said Pedro Zorrilla, a spokesperson for Greenpeace Climate Change. Alongside 450 other international organizations, the NGO has signed a letter addressed to UN president António Guterres, calling for Al Jaber’s dismissal.

For the letter's signatories, the Sultan represents "a threat to the legitimacy and effectiveness" of the conference, they write. "If we have any hope of addressing the climate crisis, the COP must not be influenced by the fossil fuel industry, whether that be oil, gas or coal."

The figure of the presidency may only be symbolic, but Zorrilla points out that the president has decision-making power in this type of international meeting, where nations are expected to agree on concrete decisions to curb the climate emergency. "They are the ones who set the agenda."

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This Happened - March 24: Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

The oil tanker, Exxon Valdez, ran aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, on this day in 1989, causing a massive oil spill. The captain, Joseph Hazelwood, had left the bridge, leaving an inexperienced third mate in charge, who then failed to properly maneuver the ship.

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Green Or Gone
Pascal Perri*

Trains Or Planes? The Problem With Vilifying Air Travel

The airline industry certainly has room for improvement, but dreaming of a rail-only future ignores some practical and even environmental realities.


PARIS — What's better, trains or planes? From an environmental perspective, rail transport would seem to be the obvious answer. But is that really the case?

Economically, air transport has an advantage in that plane companies cover their entire operating costs. Not only that, but there's money left over, so to speak, because it's highly taxed: only half of the money spent on an average plane ticket from Paris to Marseilles ends up in the airline's coffers.

Trains, on the other hand, require numerous subsidies. Passengers don't pay the full costs of their trip. Taxpayers cover the rest. Do the ecological benefits of trains offset the additional tax burden? Not necessarily. A calculation of the full CO2 cost should include the signaling equipment and billions of tons of cement used to build high-speed lines, none of which appears out of thin air.

As people in France become more environmentally aware, the airlines — and Air France in particular — are facing a hurricane of criticism. It's gotten to the point where one green lawmaker even suggested banning planes on routes that compete with trains. But this position ignores the crucial economic role that short-haul flights play in connecting passengers to long-haul flights. France is one of the most dynamic domestic markets in Europe. Air France alone flies more than 100 million passengers a year. About half of those passengers make connecting flights.

For those flying within France, taking a high-speed train — the TGV, as it's known here — is an obvious alternative. In theory. But what if everyone did that? Could SNCF (the national train company) handle an additional 25 million passengers, especially on the already saturated route between Paris and Bourgogne? The answer is no, at least not without building a second physical network. And in that case, the train's carbon footprint would go from green to red.

The plane doesn't deserve the fate that ecologists have in store for it.

The traditional airlines have built their growth model around alliances and control of the domestic market. Without all the feeder flights that come into Charles de Gaulle, its Paris hub, Air France would go the way of Alitalia and be reduced to a minor regional airline. Economist Geert Noels reminds us, furthermore, that worldwide, about 80% of flights cover more than 1,500 kilometers. The train just isn't a viable alternative over such distances.

The plane doesn't deserve the fate that ecologists have in store for it. In 15 years, passenger distance increased by 60% while the rise of CO2 emissions from the sector rose just 15%. Engine manufacturers have made tremendous progress reducing the carbon footprint of aircraft.

The airplane is an essential tool for international trade. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't reexamine the industry's competitive logic from a sustainable development perspective. How can we accept, for example, that tickets for a Paris-to Madrid-to New York flight cost significantly less than a direct — and much shorter (by 1,000 kilometers) — Paris-to-New York flight?

Acceptable? — Photo: Joel & Jasmin Førestbird/Unsplash

The same questions can be asked about east-bound flights, and about airline companies from the Persian Gulf region that have built a fortune using this system of strategic layovers and low-cost tickets. With their predatory prices, they come and feed off the European market — and with no regard for the environment.

In the meantime, there's talk of making European airlines pay additional taxes. But that would just increase the price gap with outside competitors and encourage passengers to travel unnecessary kilometers. Is that really what we want?

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Green Or Gone
Camila Taborda

In Colombia, A Losing Battle To Keep A Dump Off Native Lands

Indigenous communities in the country's Caribbean coastal area dug in for more than decade to keep their traditional lands from being trashed.

RIOHACHAGraciela Cotes Arpushana has been living by the road between Riohacha and Valledupar, on Colombia's Caribbean coast, for 45 years. Three generations of her ancestors are buried near her ranch, called Ocushimana. Her animals are there too, along with her crops and her extended family members, the Arpushanas, who live on neighboring lands.

But this is also the place part of the territory of the Wayuu, one of the native peoples of the Guajira peninsula where the city of Riohacha, population 250,000, decided to install a large dump. Needless to say, Graciela and her neighbors aren't happy about it.

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Benjamin von Brackel

Earth's Expanding Greenery Has An Unlikely Hero

Our planet has actually grown greener. Really. You can thank yourself.

MUNICH — Planet Earth is growing greener.

In Canada and the Russian hinterland of Siberia, coniferous forests crowd the tundra, where previously one could find only grass and shrub. In the U.S., beech forests have spread in the country's north. The Tibetan plateau is now covered with grassland. In the Chinese mountain region of Shangnan, pines and Norway maples blossom. Trees have sprouted in the south of the Sahara and rainforest cover has intensified in the tropics.

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Le Eco-Grazing! Paris Uses Sheep To Mow Park Lawns



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Olivier Truc

King Ingvar And His Three Sons - Inside The IKEA Family Saga

SWEDEN – Sagas are epic tales full of symbolic details, and the IKEA saga is no exception.

The story of the Swedish furniture giant, founded in 1943 by Ingvar Kamprad, who is now 86 years old, definitely qualifies as a saga. It combines successes, setbacks and the carefully maintained mythology around the patriarch, who even though he is still active has taken a step back since he resigned as CEO in 1986. Today his role in the company is mostly advisory, but he still chairs the Kamprad family foundations.

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Audrey Garric

Hurricanes And Tsunamis As Weapons? The Truth About 'Environmental Warfare'

PARIS - Hurricane Sandy in the U.S., the tsunami in Japan or the eruption of the Eyjafjoll volcano in Iceland. Could the rising tide of such natural disasters be explained by man’s voluntary action? Could these cataclysms be triggered deliberately by the army, for political reasons?

For years, these conspiracy theories, relayed generously on the Internet, suggest that the climate could be manipulated as part of strategic or tactical wars.

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