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Classroom Resources: Changing the Battery

Changing the Battery
By Michael Abrams

Winter 2012 / Vol. 12 No. 4

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Discussion Questions

1. Make a list of the environmental pros and cons of increased production and use of rechargeable lithium batteries. What are some ways that these can be balanced?

2. Why have the development and performance of batteries changed so slowly compared to other technologies? How do you envision most people will be powering their portable electronics in 50 years?

3. Compare and contrast the marketing for two companies mining lithium in the altiplano of Argentina: FMC Lithium ( and Lithium Americas ( Do they address issues of biodiversity conservation and environmental and social responsibility?

4. Mineral rights in Bolivia are controlled by the government, while in Argentina, private companies can purchase mining leases and concessions. Discuss how you might work within these different systems to promote environmentally sustainable land use practices.

5. Does the information in this article make you more or less likely to buy rechargeable lithium batteries for personal use?

Websites for Further Information

  • IUCN Flamingo Specialist Group
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile:
  • American Museum of Natural History notes from the field:

Lithium Mining in the News

  • Bolivia has lithium, and the president intends to make the world pay for it (New York Times, February 2, 2009)

Peer-reviewed Literature (in addition to the citations listed in the article)

  • Holopainen, I.J., A.L. Holopainen, H. Hämäläinen. 2003. Effects of mining industry waste waters on a shallow lake ecosystem in Karelia, north-west Russia. Hydrobiologia 506-509: 111-119.
  • Wanger, T.C. 2011. The lithium future-resources, recycling and the environment. Conservation Letters 4: 202-204.

Key Concepts

  • Green energy
  • Habitat conservation
  • Consumerism consequences
  • Endangered species
  • Powering the future
  • Tradeoffs in sustainable development
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