Thacker Pass, Super Bowl Commercials, and Why Taylor Swift Doesn’t Scare Me

For the past three years, I’ve been involved in a campaign to stop the Lithium Nevada Corporation from destroying a beautiful mountain pass in northern Nevada – known as Thacker Pass in English, or Peehee mu’huh in the local Numic (Paiute) language – to extract lithium from the land for electric car batteries. Thacker Pass is some of the best remaining greater sage grouse habitat left on Earth. Thacker Pass is home to pronghorn antelope, coyotes, sage brush, meadowlarks, rattlesnakes, pygmy rabbits, kangaroo rats, golden eagles, a rare snail known as the King’s River Pyrg that is threatened with extinction by the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, amongst many other creatures. Thacker Pass was also the site of two massacres of Paiute people including the September 12, 1865 massacre where federal soldiers massacred at least 31 men, women, and children in the Snake War which was fought over…wait for it…mining encroachments on Native land.

We lost the campaign. Mine construction proceeds full speed ahead and hundreds, if not thousands, of acres of Thacker Pass are being carved up right now by Lithium Nevada. Though we lost the campaign and the mine is being constructed, four Native folks and three settler allies (myself included) were sued by Lithium Nevada for “trespassing” on public land to protest the mine. We might end up owing Lithium Nevada – a corporation profiting from the destruction of threatened species’ habitat and the final resting places of massacred Paiutes – hundreds of thousands of dollars for our peaceful protest. The case against us is still in its early stages so we’ll probably be fighting that lawsuit for months, at least. All while the violation of Thacker Pass and all the creatures who live there only gets worse.

Tonight, I will watch the Super Bowl – and the inevitable deluge of electric vehicle commercials that corporations will spend hundreds of millions of dollars to ensure are witnessed by millions if not billions of people worldwide. (Yes, I know the Super Bowl is not the biggest sporting event on Earth. Still, it is widely viewed in North America, Europe, and parts of Africa.) The electric vehicle commercials are infuriating, of course. But, truth be told, most commercials infuriate me because virtually every one of them are wickedly designed to manipulate both the conscious and unconscious parts of our mind to consume evermore stuff. And, what does consuming evermore stuff – whether it’s consuming evermore Coca-Cola, Coors Light, that new dog food brand that you refrigerate, or electric vehicles – do?

It destroys more of what’s left of the natural world. And, at a time when human population has overshot the Earth’s carrying capacity, literally anything you consume destroys the natural world in an unsustainable manner.

But, what will really infuriate me while watching the Super Bowl will be the echo of all the people who criticized those of us working to stop the Thacker Pass mine for owning automobiles (and using them to get to Thacker Pass to confront mining there), for owning computers (and using them to educate the world about what mining does), for owning cell phones (and using them to organize resistance to the mine.) I will be infuriated because these people seem to truly believe that the destruction of the planet can be stopped if the precious few of us who both 1. actually care about the destruction of the planet and 2. are willing to do more than just tell everyone how much we care about the destruction of the planet just give up our cars, computers, and phones. Meanwhile, the corporations who profit from destroying the natural world will gain access to the consciousness of billions of people with their commercials encouraging everyone that if they just spend a smooth $60,000 or $70,000 on a sleek new electric vehicle they can stop the destruction of the planet and appear very virtuous while they’re at it.

Unfortunately, manufacturing electric vehicles includes the same fossil-fuel intensive processes that manufacturing anything (including traditional vehicles) does. When you buy your groovy new Tesla, you need to see the destruction of places like Thacker Pass, the deaths of child laborers in mines in the Congo, the murder of golden eagles reflected in that polished gleam your car salesman is so good at achieving.

But you also need to understand that just like simply buying an electric vehicle isn’t going to save the planet, simply refraining from buying an electric vehicle isn’t going to save the planet, either. Why? Because the global economy is based on the destruction of the natural world. This is true whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world for electric vehicles, whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world for agriculture, or whether we’re talking about destroying the natural world with the pollution nearly 9 billion humans make just from eating, pooping, and sheltering themselves. (Yes, people in the so-called First World use many more resources than others, but per capita consumption by all humans is increasing).

Because nearly every human life today is only possible through the destruction of the natural world, we’re simply not going to convince enough people to ever make the sacrifices necessary to keep the world from ecological collapse. This is especially true when those most responsible for destroying the natural world can put their propaganda in every American living room through things like television commercials more or less constantly. And, please, if you think that a few of us “leading by example” or “being the change” by giving up tools like computers will ever be as persuasive as Super Bowl commercials, then please keep in mind that virtually every traditional culture that thrived with stone age technologies has been massacred, forcibly assimilated, or otherwise destroyed upon contact with the dominant industrial culture. Those 31 Paiutes murdered in Thacker Pass by federal soldiers for standing in the way of mines are just one of countless examples of that.

Am I saying “give up?” Hell, no. I’m saying that we have to think much bigger than personal responsibility, lifestyle changes, or consumption choices. We can’t pat ourselves on our backs for arguing with people who disagree with us online, for buying a “green” product, for writing passionate essays.

Which brings me to Taylor Swift. I played college football. And for the first 22 years of my life, playing the game of football was my favorite thing to do on Earth. So, yes, I have been watching the NFL this year and have followed the Travis Kelce – Taylor Swift story. I’ve watched as some conservatives – believing that God has mandated that they try to put in her place an uppity, successful woman who points out some forms of misogyny – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. I’ve watched as some environmentalists – believing Mother Earth has mandated that they put an individual woman who boards planes which burn fossil fuels – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. I’ve watched as some feminists – believing the Goddess has ordered them to protect a single billionaire because she’s a successful woman that some men have criticized – lose their minds about Taylor Swift. (Full Disclosure: I do not know Taylor Swift, but I have a partner who cheers my activism on like Taylor Swift cheers Travis Kelce on. And that means something to me.)

But, here’s the thing: I see far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the current mass extinction event we’re living through, far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the fact that we’ve lost over 70% of vertebrate species on Earth since 1970, far fewer of anyone losing their minds about the fact that we can’t convince anyone to do hardly anything to actually stop any of this.

We’re not going to convince most people to make the sacrifices necessary to make sure there’s a livable planet to watch the Super Bowl on, to complain about Taylor Swift on, to complain about those who complain about Taylor Swift on, to – you know – live on. The good news is we don’t need to convince most people. We just need to deprive most people of the tools they need to continue to destroy the Earth, our only home. Worried about misogyny and porn culture? You don’t have to convince internet servers to stop serving pornography if you smash them. Worried about climate change? You don’t have to convince oil refineries to stop refining if you break them. Worried about how mass media affects us? You don’t have to convince televisions to stop brainwashing people if you pull enough power lines down.

I know that’s scary to think about. I know it would be scary to do. But, isn’t the collapse of life on Earth scarier? Scarier, at least, than team mascots, football games, or Taylor Swift?

Let’s fight back together

Yesterday, I attended a Tribal Leaders Summit at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) with the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC). The event was hosted by UNR’s Office of Indigenous Relations, University Center of Economic Development, and the Nevada Indian Commission. The second half of the event was devoted to UNR faculty trying to sell the Tribes on Joe Biden’s designation of UNR as a “TechHub” with support for Nevada’s new lithium economy. Faculty proudly presented about all the jobs lithium mining and electric car battery manufacturing would bring to the region. Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo made an obligatory appearance and filled a full 10 minutes of the 30 minutes he was scheduled to speak for before peeling out to attend to more important matters.

As UNR faculty presented, I found myself getting angrier and angrier. My friend and colleague RSIC Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Michon Eben was too. I was afraid we were the only ones until Te-Moak Chairman Joseph Holley asked Dr. Mridul Guatam, UNR’s Vice President of Research and Innovation, about just how “clean” or “green” lithium mining really was. Dr. Guatam pretended not to know. And, then several of the Western Shoshone representatives proceeded to inform the UNR faculty about how mining has devastated Western Shoshone homelands. One Western Shoshone leader called her homelands a “hellscape.”

Because Dr. Guatam danced around the question about just how “clean” lithium mining is, I was allowed the microphone to explain how the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine, by Lithium Nevada’s own numbers, will produce over 150,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually, will burn over 12,000 gallons of diesel on-site daily, and requires sulfuric acid obtained from oil refineries. Noticing that UNR faculty were advocating for lithium mining while standing next to a prayer staff with eagle feathers, I explained that Lithium Nevada has been granted permits to kill golden eagles for the Thacker Pass mine. I also explained how racist it is that UNR faculty were so proud of the jobs created by lithium mining when the First Nations who have lived in the region from time immemorial, and who were ethnically cleansed from the land lithium mines are now destroying, have no right of consent over these mines, even when those mines destroy the most sacred places in the world to Native communities.

I have no idea whether the UNR faculty who presented yesterday actually believe the ideas they were spewing. I suspect they do. I suspect they’ve convinced themselves that more mining, more steel manufacturing, more plastic production, more pollution for electric vehicles is the only way to stop climate change. I suspect that they’ve further convinced themselves that Native peoples are backwards and selfish for not being willing to sacrifice what’s left of their homelands for another mining boom. I suspect that they resent organizations like Protect Thacker Pass that insist that its wrong to sacrifice greater sage grouse, sage brush steppe, Lahontan cutthroat trout, and golden eagles for products like electric vehicles that simply are not necessary for anyone’s survival.

Regardless, even if UNR faculty are just doing their job or presenting what their bosses tell them they must, this is no excuse for participating in ecocide and the destruction of Native culture. In effect, what UNR communicated to the tribes was: The lithium industry is going to mine. You can’t stop them. You have no right to say no. So, you might as well take a few jobs. You might as well take a little money from the corporations destroying your land and culture.

I want to make this personal: If this is you, if this is your job, if you’re making money helping the lithium industry destroy the Great Basin and destroy Native culture, you should quit. Right now.

I don’t know about y’all, but when someone comes to my home to destroy it, I don’t cooperate with them; I fight back. Let’s fight back together.

The Racism of Lithium Americas Corporation

When worldviews collide, planet and people pay the price for ethnocentric arrogance

Note: today is the 3-year anniversary of Protect Thacker Pass.

The term “racism” brings to mind bigots, slurs, and the Ku Klux Klan, or the systematic disenfranchisement of certain communities through discriminatory policies around housing, banking, and policing.

When we think of environmental racism we often think of what is happening in Flint, Michigan, where a majority-Black community has faced a toxic water mismanagement crisis leading to lead poisoning.

Or, we think of “Cancer Alley,” an 85-mile stretch along the Mississippi River in Louisiana along which, according to the United Nations, an “ever-widening corridor of [150] petrochemical plants has not only polluted the surrounding water and air, but also subjected the mostly African American residents in St. James Parish to cancer, respiratory diseases and other health problems.”

But today I want to write about a different type of environmental racism; one that is more subtle, and perhaps more far-reaching.


Three years ago today, my good friend Will Falk and I traveled to Thacker Pass, Nevada, and set up camp high on the side of a mountain, on the GPS coordinates of a planned open pit lithium mine.

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We were there to protect the land, and within months, we began developing relationships with traditional indigenous people from the Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone tribes. Soon, community members from Fort McDermitt, Reno-Sparks, Summit Lake, Duck Valley, Yerington, and other Native American reservations were regularly traveling to the protest camp, bringing supplies, and standing on the front lines.

A profound kinship began to develop. We’d sit on the mountainside with elders, discuss strategy, share food, and watch the land. Golden eagles wheeled overhead and jackrabbits ran through the sage.

One particular elder, Josephine Dick from the Fort McDermitt Tribe, has a twinkle in her eye that reminds me of my grandmother. She would tell stories about tanning hides, about making cradleboards for babies, about the history of Peehee Mu’huh (the Paiute name for Thacker Pass). She speaks about how, one day, we’re not going to have cars, or electricity, or phones, or any modern technologies. “One day,” she says, “that’s all going to be gone. And people will have to know the old ways.”

While at Thacker Pass, I spent time reading documents detailing the government’s attempts at consultation with native tribes. One of them is the transcript of a meeting with government officials in nearby Winnemucca attended by Josephine, among other tribal members.

“We have blood, a heart, organs, keeping us alive,” Josephine tells the Bureau of Land Management officials. “Mother Earth has water, soils, rocks, keeping her alive. To me, the more Mother Earth is mined, it is slowly killing her, and creating problems in the world. She needs her parts the way we do.”


There are different ways to live in the world. One is Josephine’s way: a way that sees land as sacred, sees animals as relatives who are our elder siblings, and sees water and the basis of all life. This is traditional in Paiute society, and it’s also traditional among my own ancestors, before they assimilated or were conquered by empires.

In fact, this worldview is shared amongst almost all tribal and land-based societies around the globe.

Nemonte Nenqiumo, a Waorani leader from the Ecuadorian Amazon, lives 4,000 miles from Paiute territory, but in her brilliant 2020 essay My Message to the Western World: Your Civilization is Killing Life on Earth, she shares a similar perspective: “This forest has taught us how to walk lightly, and because we have listened, learned and defended her, she has given us everything: water, clean air, nourishment, shelter, medicines, happiness, meaning.”

She continues: “You forced your civilization upon us and now look where we are: global pandemic, climate crisis, species extinction and, driving it all, widespread spiritual poverty.”

Ati Quigia, an indigenous leader from Columbia, said it even more clearly: “We are fighting not to have roads or electricity — this vision of self-destruction that’s called development is what we’re trying to avoid.”

From a scientific perspective, you could say this worldview is common because  sustainability is an adaptive trait, and an “animist” perspective promotes sustainability. Or, you could say that this worldview is a more accurate way of perceiving the world than a purely mechanistic, western perspective.

Both of these interpretations are true. My direct experience at Thacker Pass is that the land itself is alive, sentient, with feelings and perceptions far different from our own. But if we listen, the land speaks.

Compare the worldview of Josephine and Nemonte Nenquimo to our opponent.

Set against us at Thacker Pass is Lithium Americas, a transnational corporation based in Canada and operating through a fully-owned U.S. subsidiary, Lithium Nevada. They are traded on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange, and have attracted major investors from around the world. The company is worth billions, and is collaborating with General Motors Corporation to develop the Thacker Pass lithium mine.

The mine, which is now under construction, will consist of an open pit nearly two miles long and half a mile wide, as deep as the height of a 35-story building, carved into the side of the mountain. New mountains have begun to rise, made up of the toxic acidic byproducts of the mining process. A sulfuric acid plant is under construction, which will use sulfur from the oil industry — possibly the Alberta Tar Sands — to burn lithium from the soil.

All this is only possible by first destroying the land with huge bulldozers, blowing up the mountain with explosives, and killing or driving away every single plant and animal. The scale of pollution, water use, and greenhouse gas emissions for a project like this is staggering.

Corporate power is a major driver of our environmental crisis. Global warming, species extinction, biodiversity loss, soil erosion, toxic pollution, plastic and chemical contamination, oceanic dead zones, overconsumption, urban sprawl, deforestation, desertification, sea level rise, ocean acidification, aquifer drawdown, overfishing — all of these problems are linked to corporate overreach. They are also all linked to abuse of human rights, declining human health, and threats to the future of our children.


Ethnocentrism refers to evaluating other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one’s own culture. It’s also perfectly descriptive of Lithium Americas: a foreign corporation (foreign to both the Paiute nation and to the United States) imposing its vision of “development” on a population that opposes it, through the use of force.

That force is often filtered through intermediaries. For example, in Argentina, indigenous and non-native communities fighting lithium mines face kidnapping, torture, and sexual assault at the hands of Argentine police forces. This includes the lithium extraction project developed by Lithium Argentina (a corporation which was until recently part of Lithium Americas, until they split to allow greater access to government subsidies).

Similar violent, repressive techniques are being applied in Nevada, on Paiute-Shoshone land at Thacker Pass. This week, the chairman of the Fort McDermitt Tribe (which took money from the mining company against community wishes) physically attacked and choked a member of his tribe — an 18-year-old boy — who attempted to film his meeting with Lithium Americas employees Tim Crowley (VP of Government and External Affairs) and Maria Anderson (Community Relations Director).

I believe this is the second time this Chairman has physically attacked a mine opponent. The other incident was captured by the New York Times (the photo is inaccurately labeled as Tildon Smart).

Mining companies use divide-and-conquer strategies to split communities apart and weaponize them against each other. Another way companies shut down dissenters is lawsuits. Four indigenous activists and three allies (including me) are being sued by Lithium Americas for our work to #ProtectThackerPass, a sacred and biodiverse place now being bulldozed for mining. We face the possibility of massive financial penalties.

The ethnocentric racism of Lithium Americas corporation and others like them claims that their vision of economic and technological development is the solution to the world’s problems. These companies believe that wildlife habitat, water, and the sacred places of traditional indigenous communities are less important than profits and the development of electric cars. And their vision of “progress” leads to mad hypocrisies; “Mining is inherently unsustainable,” says Thomas Benson, Vice President of Global Exploration at Lithium Americas — before he goes back to his well-paid job in mining.

Ethnocentric racism leads to Lithium Americas stock boosters saying things like this: “No natives equals few water issues. Natives can be a royal pain to deal with. Lithium Americas has had its fair share of native issues for its South American mine (and the same can be said for Thacker Pass in Nevada) but these are to be expected. Still, not having any natives is a welcome bonus.”

This is the language of colonization and genocide.

Ethnocentric racism leads Thacker Pass supporters to disparage Native American resistance to the destruction of Peehee Mu’huh, a ceremonial site where Paiute ancestors were massacred, as “horses” in response to a ceremonial prayer horse ride, as shown here on social media:


There is a circular relationship between economics and oppression.

In his book Capitalism and Slavery, Trinidadian historian Dr. Eric Williams writes that “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.” Williams argues (as have others) that racism developed as an ideology to justify subjugation that was already in progress for economic reasons. In other words, exploitation for economic growth or power came first, and racism developed later, as a moral system to justify the exploitation.

The economic drivers behind Thacker Pass are titanic. According to the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook report in 2021, “If the world gets on track for net zero emissions by 2050, then the cumulative market opportunity for manufacturers of wind turbines, solar panels, lithium-ion batteries, electrolysers and fuel cells amounts to USD 27 trillion. These five elements alone in 2050 would be larger than today’s oil industry and its associated revenues.” (emphases added).

As Stan Cox has written:

Globally, mining and processing of metallic ores has doubled just since 2000 and is responsible for a whopping 10 percent of total world energy consumption. Now, if plans to “electrify everything” are carried out worldwide, the tonnage of metal extracted and processed in the next 15 years alone will exceed the tonnage that humans have produced during the 5,000 years since the start of the Bronze Age.

The Washington Post, citing International Energy Agency figures, predicts that by 2040, global demand for metals that go into batteries will balloon 20-fold for nickel and cobalt and 40-fold for lithium; demand for manganese, critical for wind turbines, will increase ninefold in just the next decade. Demand for aluminum, which is already produced in vastly larger quantities than any of those metals, will increase by yet another 40 percent, largely to produce lighter-weight electric cars and support solar arrays.

Forbes estimates that almost 400 new mines will be opened worldwide by 2035 just to keep battery factories supplied with cobalt, lithium, and nickel. This will create many more of what have come to be known as “green sacrifice zones”: localities across the world, from Congo to Guinea to China to Bolivia to the Pacific Ocean, that are bearing or will bear the human, environmental, and socioeconomic costs of the transition to non-fossil energy. And the deployment of wind and solar power plants across the world’s windier and sunnier regions will mean converting vast stretches of the Earth’s land surface and even seabeds into industrial energy farms.

Derrick Jensen builds on the insights of Dr. Williams. He writes: “hatred felt long enough and deeply enough no longer feels like hatred. It feels like economics, or religion, or tradition, or simply the way things are.” The hatred required to build 400 new mines and call it “progress” is enormous.

The result of this hatred is the profoundly dispassionate, scientific racism that animates corporations like Lithium Americas. It doesn’t look like the racism of the Klu Klux Klan, or the environmental injustice of Flint, Michigan. But it’s far more mainstream; sequential Republican and Democratic administrations have backed Lithium Americas, defending the project in Federal Court against tribes and environmental groups.

And they are not only defending a mine; they are defending the process of assimilation. They are defending the conquest of an Earth-centered worldview by a profit-centered one.

This is the continuation of an ongoing process. In the spring and summer of 1865, as the Snake War raged throughout Nevada between United States government and the Paiute and Shoshone, the highest military officer in the State wrote that Indians had “prevented the settlers along the Humboldt from putting in their crops, retarded the settlement of the rich agricultural lands of that section, [and] prevented the development of the rich mineral resources of the whole northern portion of our state…

Mining vs. indigenous people and the land has been a recurring theme in Nevada for more than 158 years, from the Snake War to the Dann Sisters and Mount Tenabo to Thacker Pass.


Today, three years after I first set up camp at Thacker Pass, I remember Grandmother Sagebrush, an ancient shrub under whose branches I first dreamed about protecting Thacker Pass from an open pit lithium mine.

In my mind, I walk north from the protest camp we established on January 15th, 2021, towards the fenceline where Grandmother Sagebrush grows. The clouds fade from red to orange to purple, then green and a dark blue. Coyotes howl from the far mountain, echoing in the still air.

In my mind, I approach Grandmother Sagebrush, and something cracks inside me. I stumble onto my hands and knees and burst into tears. The grief pours out, my blessing to the land. Like many grandmothers, she has power over tears.

I do not know if she is alive or dead at this moment. If I visit the land, I can be charged with a felony.

I spend my days researching what is being done to the planet —the mining, the fracking, the clearcuts, the species disappearing one after another. A hundred today. A hundred yesterday. A hundred the day before. And, I try to throw myself on the gears of the machine, to slow it down, grind it to a halt, tear it apart.

Every day this work tears my soul apart and stitches it back together again. But the alternative is dissociation — a normal state of being inside our dysfunctional culture, and a state which is fundamental to “othering” and committing violence against other people, and against the land.


I recall another walk on the mountainside at Thacker Pass. On that day, I am not alone; a writer joins me. She asks questions, but not the normal ones. She is more interested in me than in lithium.

She asks, “Why don’t you give up? Why don’t you go home and sit on your couch and complain, like most people do? Why are you here?”

“Because I’m in love,” I told her. “I am in love with the land. And you don’t give up when you’re in love.”

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as we consider the perils of greenwashing and Bright Green Lies, I want to share this quote. Originally meant as a commentary on capitalism, militarism, and the moral decline of the United States, it is just as cautionary when we consider the project of eco-modernism.

“We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.”

There is no “better” place to mine lithium

At Protect Thacker Pass, we’ve heard from people who think that companies should mine lithium in Imperial Valley (“Lithium Valley”) at the Salton Sea because it would be “better” than mining lithium at Thacker Pass.

To be clear up front: Protect Thacker Pass opposes all lithium mining, no matter where it is happening. All lithium extraction is harmful for the environment and unsustainable in the long term (lithium is a nonrenewable material). There is no “better” place to mine lithium.

Earthworks has published a new report that shows the devastating impacts from mining lithium from brine using direct lithium extraction with geothermal power plants. As the report states, there are currently three companies developing this technology.

Their report shows that direct lithium extraction in the Imperial Valley at the Salton Sea will have devastating impacts on the environment, beyond those already created by geothermal energy extraction. These include air pollution, consuming vast quantities of freshwater, degrading the already imperiled Salton Sea ecosystem, hazardous waste, and the potential for earthquakes to cause industrial disasters in the area.

We’ve included the two pages from the summary report as images in this post. The full Earthworks Report is worth reading if you’re interested in learning more about how geothermal power plants work and how direct lithium extraction works in conjunction with geothermal. However, we disagree with some of the conclusions in their report. 

Like most large environmental groups, Earthworks believes that mining lithium is important to address the climate crisis, and their conclusions reflect this. They state that the mining should proceed as long as full, prior informed consent of regional tribes is obtained; if hazardous wastes and air pollution are dealt with properly; if companies and local communities “carefully consider” trade-offs with freshwater use; and if the mining companies design power plants with “high standards for seismic safety.” 

What they seem not to recognize is that there is no safe way to extract non-renewable materials like lithium from the environment without significant impacts to ecosystems. Ensuring that this extraction is safer doesn’t mean it’s safe. The report also ignores the many other impacts of building technologies like batteries that rely on lithium, or the harms these technologies themselves do to the environment. Lithium extraction is just the first step in a long list of harms on the way to a final product.

Again: we oppose all lithium mining, and indeed, all extraction, for luxury goods that humans can live without. Our priority is the health of the natural world, without which no human or any other living being on Earth can survive.

Do good neighbors dig up massacre sites? Questioning the Thacker Pass narrative

On Tuesday, Lithium Americas CEO Alexi Zawadzki published an opinion column in this newspaper stating that “For Lithium Americas and its subsidiary Lithium Nevada, developing the Thacker Pass lithium mine isn’t worth doing if we don’t do it right. This means committing to a process that is transparent, collaborative — and most of all, respectful to our neighbors.”

If Zawadski is telling the truth, he should back up his words with action and cancel the Thacker Pass mine project right away.

The neighbors he refers to — local farmers and ranchers in Orovada and Kings River, as well as Native Americans from the nearby Fort McDermitt Reservation — have almost universally expressed outrage about the Thacker Pass mine.

Lithium Americas faces three lawsuits from a rancher, environmental groups and Tribes. They face protests to their water rights transfers. Their Argentina mine has faced complaints of human rights violations, as reported in The Washington Post. And the protest camp that I helped found attracts hundreds to the site in a groundswell of public opposition.

Yet now, they are poised to bulldoze through sagebrush habitat over new evidence showing a massacre of Paiutes took place in Thacker Pass in 1865. Apparently, despite “extensive cultural inventories,” they missed this. What else have they missed?

Zawadzki claims his company is doing “extensive work to respect and safeguard” the connection of tribes to the region. Charitably, he is confused by what these words mean. Less charitably, he is lying. Desecrating sacred sites, looting artifacts and ignoring a history of massacres to punch through a rushed project is the polar opposite of respect.

Does this sound collaborative? Does it sound like being a good neighbor?

Behind the public relations rhetoric is the truth. This mine will release chemicals, raise radioactive dust and pollute with fumes from up to 200 semi truck trips per day. The environmental impacts include water drawdowns, bulldozing of habitat, severing of migration corridors and possible harm to endangered species. And this project hurts the public, too: It will virtually privatize 28 square miles of public lands for at least 40 years and possibly much more.

All that traffic will hurt the community through more than air pollution too. Locals, including Humboldt County Commissioner Ron Cherri, have stated that “it’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when” someone dies due to the increase in truck traffic. And the indigenous community in particular is concerned about missing and murdered Indigenous women and the rise in drug abuse and crime that tends to follow large industrial projects — part of what Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has called an epidemic of violence against Indigenous peoples.

And when the mine is inevitably used up, what will be left behind? A wasteland for future generations? A cancer cluster? A moonscape with a fraction of its former biodiversity? Perhaps if Zawadzki was a local, and his children and grandchildren would be living in this area, he would make different choices.

For now, the courts have sided with Lithium Americas. But that decision may not last. Further, in a pluralistic society, it is a mistake to rely on governments or courts to always do what is right. In his letter from a Birmingham jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. — who broke the law repeatedly — wrote that “We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’ and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was ‘illegal.’”

Zawadzki is not telling the truth. He is doing what corporate crooks are paid to do: lying in order to ram this mine through, despite the harm it will cause, and despite determined, principled community opposition.

Reno Gazette Journal

Photo: a resident of Thacker Pass, by Max Wilbert.