An Original Audio Story Series Led by Nate Otjen + Juan Manuel Rubio
The energy transition often presents a single vision of the future, one where renewable technologies bring about decarbonized living. Miraculously, this vision promises a world that has been transformed through technological innovation and a world that doesn’t look much different from our current reality. In this imagined future, technology creates improved living conditions, even as modern transportation infrastructure and voracious consumerism remain unchanged. Though it presents itself as a positive — and absolutely necessary — departure from the dirty ways of living enabled by fossil fuels and their use, this vision of energy transition relies on scales and magnitudes of extraction and consumption never seen before.
Mining for the Climate examines the perils of the energy transition and its reliance on critical minerals. The project emphasizes the voices and perspectives of frontline communities, bringing climate justice stories about the impacts of critical mineral mining to wider publics. We ask if increased mining—and a more mining-dependent society—is in the best interests of humans, other beings and the climate.
The project will result in a multiple-season audio documentary series published by Blue Lab. The first season was released in January 2024. It takes a deep look at Piedmont Lithium’s proposed mine in Gaston County, North Carolina. The second season will examine contestations over the Thacker Pass Lithium Mine at Peehee Mu’huh in Humboldt County, Nevada. It will be released in late 2024 or early 2025, along with a critical mapping component.
In addition to offering a platform for environmental storytelling and research, Mining for the Climate is a pedagogical project. Undergraduate students learn an array of skills, including how to use audio and video recording equipment, how to interview people and how to produce audio narratives. At the same time, we are working to bring these stories to primary and secondary classrooms where they can further inspire and impact.
Created by Juan Manuel Rubio and Nate Otjen with research, writing and production support from Alex Norbrook, Grace Wang and Max Widmann. Hosted by Juan Manuel Rubio, Max Widmann, Alex Norbrook, Grace Wang and Nate Otjen and mixed by Juan Manuel Rubio, Nate Otjen and Grace Wang.
Mining for the Climate is a production of Blue Lab with support from Princeton University. For their support and expertise, we also thank, at Princeton, the High Meadows Environmental Institute, Humanities Council and Office of the Dean of Research, as well as Kouvenda Media.
Copyright 2023 Nate Otjen, Juan Manuel Rubio and Blue Lab.