Lithium is considered a critical material for the energy transition away from fossil fuels because it is a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles and renewable energy storage. Although lithium is present all over the globe, two of the largest and most controversial lithium resources are in Chile’s Atacama Desert and California’s Salton Sea region. This presentation discusses the role of mining in climate change mitigation, by examining how: (1) on the one hand, the reliance on brine evaporation as an extraction method for lithium mining has exacerbated drought conditions in the Atacama Desert; and (2) on the other, geothermal lithium development has been framed by tech entrepreneurs, developers, and regulators as a cleaner alternative method of lithium recovery at the Salton Sea. Despite the increasing demand for energy transition minerals to address climate change, ongoing concerns from Indigenous and fenceline communities about water use, air quality, waste streams, seismic activity, and cultural resources remain unresolved. This talk is based on community-engaged research in collaboration with environmental justice activists, Indigenous leaders, scientists, and policy practitioners in Chile and California.

YouTube video

Event Date
May 1, 2024 / 7:00 pm - 8:00 pm


  • In-person
  • Virtual


  • Past

Event Type

  • Distinctive Voices


  • Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center (Irvine, CA)


James J. A. Blair
Cal Poly Pomona