I appreciate Stuart Lindberg’s letter outlining a number of concerns about renewable energy. The points about use of “rare earth” minerals, child and slave labor are valid and not given enough attention. These same minerals are used in cell phones, computers, and other electronics.
It’s also important to note that child and sweatshop labor have been used to produce gold, diamonds, most major brands of chocolate, clothing, and many other consumer items, whether necessary or “nice to have” items (For more, see GreenAmerica.org).
Fossil fuel and uranium mining have done incredible harm to the Navajo people in the Southwest. Burning coal has been detrimental to the health of countless residents of Appalachia, particular children, many of whom are dependent on inhalers to breathe. Fossil fuel pipelines, which have a long history of leaking, threaten the water supplies of millions who draw water from the Missouri, Mississippi, and other rivers; they are damaging Indigenous communities and destroying sacred sites. The pesticides used to grow conventional cotton and foods poison farm workers. I could go on…
We need to be very concerned about these things. We can’t simply, blindly, substitute wind and solar energy for fossil fuels. We cannot continue to depend on the latter either. We need to reduce, conserve, and make our lifestyles more energy efficient. We need to pressure suppliers and manufacturers to be sure they source their products in a sustainable way that does not use child labor – a simple thing anyone who loves chocolate can do to help is purchase Fair Trade Certified chocolate.
We can investigate where our food and products come from and how they are made and grown. We must think outside the “consumption is good” boxes that we have been encouraged to stay in for most of our lives.
And let’s support a transition to sustainable energy, but let’s do it right.