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9 Apr 2021

Bárbara Jerez, Ingrid Garcés and Robinson Torres - Elsevier

Lithium extractivism and water injustices in the Salar de Atacama, Chile: The colonial shadow of green electromobility

...This paper analyzes the linkages and feedback between green electromobility, lithium extractivism, and water injustices affecting the Atacameno˜ ’s indigenous communities in the Salar de Atacama basin (Atacama Salt Flats). Currently, lithium is in high demand in the international markets as a strategic resource for the green electromobility industry, which represents part of the Global North policies established by the Paris Agreement to mitigate climate change’s effects. Using both documentary and ethnographic methods based mainly on semistructured interviews conducted with Atacameno ˜ people, public officials, and lithium companies’ representatives and workers, we propose a decolonial interpretation of lithium extractivism in brine mining through the lens of Latin American political ecology combined with a decolonial and water justice approach. The results demonstrate how the linkages and feedback between global and local dynamics of lithium mining in the Salar de Atacama constitute a form of green extractivism that further replicates the historical inequalities between the Northern and Southern hemispheres and especially affects the indigenous Andean territories and the water ecosystems in the Global South...This process is coupled and enabled by corporate and government narratives that preach the colonial rhetoric of development/progress as a salvationist opportunity of planetary sustainability...We conclude that there is a need to rethink global proposals for climate change beyond the scope proposed by green electromobility, which limits itself to counting carbon emissions but within the green capitalist rationality. It is essential to foster local/global dynamics that help build more egalitarian and sustainable socio-ecological partnerships. Otherwise, the green solutions of the Global North will continue to be detrimental for the Global South...