Stuff YOU Should Know

Posted by on Sep 9, 2022 in Stuff You Should Know

Native Americans Oppose Nevada Lithium Mine

Electric car lithium battery pack
Electric car lithium battery pack

Renewable energy can sometimes come with hidden costs. For example, the element lithium is an important component in rechargeable batteries. In fact, by 2030, it is expected that demand for lithium will increase tenfold in the United States alone. But mining for lithium can be harmful to the planet, causing a breakdown in soil, water shortages, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, and damage to the ecosystem. In Nevada, a group of Native American activists are suing to stop a huge lithium mining project at Thacker Pass, a valley that is important to the Paiute-Shoshone people. In 1865, U.S. soldiers killed indigenous people here, and now it is a place where the descendants of those who were killed come to honor their memory.  

If the project goes ahead, the mine at Thacker Pass will be the biggest lithium mine in the United States. It could provide enough lithium for the batteries to power 1.5 million electric cars. By 2030, the Thacker Pass mine will be able to meet one-fifth of the nation’s renewable energy needs. This will reduce dependence on China and other countries for battery power. But the mine comes with huge environmental concerns as well. It will be an open pit, 2.3 miles long, 1mile wide, and almost 400 feet deep. That is approximately the size of New York City’s Central Park. Next to the pit will be an acid plant that uses thousands of tons of sulfuric acid daily to process the lithium. The mine will also use about three thousand gallons of water per minute, in a part of the country that often suffers from severe drought conditions due to limited water resources.  

What Do You Think? In your opinion, do the benefits of the Thacker Pass mine outweigh the costs? Why or why not?

Death of Mikhail Gorbachev

On August 30, 2022, Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union, passed away at the age of 91. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev was born on March 2, 1931, in the rural Stavropol region of southern Russia. He became general secretary, the leader of the USSR, in 1985.Gorbachev helped bring some important reforms to the Soviet Union. He was perhaps best known for his policies of glasnost (“openness,” allowing people to publicly speak critically of the Soviet government) and perestroika (a series of economic and political reforms). He ended the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan that began in 1979. He negotiated with President Ronald Reagan to make nuclear arms control deals with the United States. And when the people of Eastern European nations rose up against their Communist rulers, he refused to intervene. In 1990, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1991, Gorbachev dissolved the Soviet Union and agreed to step down. In 1996, he attempted once again to run for president, but he received less than five percent of the vote. His political career was over.

Gorbachev holds a mixed historical legacy. His political reform efforts were not intended to bring about the end of the Soviet Union, but rather to modernize it. Instead, the Soviet Union’s decades-long communist government ended during his time in power. The difficult transition to a more democratic government led to many positive developments but also economic decline in the country.

What Do You Think? Based on what you’ve read above, would you consider Gorbachev’s legacy to be a positive or negative one? Explain.

Teenager Flies Solo Around the World

Many teenagers are thinking of learning to drive or joining an after-school activity. But one 17-year-old had something bigger on his mind. On August 23, 2022, Mack Rutherford, a 17-year-old from Belgium, became the youngest person ever to fly around the world. The journey was nearly 30,000 miles long and took him five months to complete. He began the trip in Bulgaria, flying an ultralight aircraft called a Shark Aero. Rutherford completed his journey September 31, 2022, landing at the same airport in Bulgaria where his journey began.  

Along the way, Rutherford stopped in thirty countries and had many adventures. He turned seventeen on June 21, and his mother met him in Dubai to celebrate. (They went to see the new Top Gun: Maverick movie.) He saw many beautiful places, but also ran into some challenges. For example, Rutherford had to chart a route across the Pacific Ocean that avoided Russia, because of the war in Ukraine. He also encountered technical problems and unpredictable weather. 

Rutherford says that he has always wanted to be a pilot. He earned his license to fly ultralight planes just a few months after turning fifteen. His father, Sam Rutherford, was a helicopter pilot with the British army. His mother, Beatrice Rutherford, is a Belgian lawyer who also flies recreational aircraft. 

So, what’s next for Rutherford? He is back at high school and will be working towards his end-of-year A Level exams. But he says that aviation will be part of his future. 

Dig Deeper Zara Rutherford, Mack Rutherford’s sister, is the youngest woman to fly solo around the world. Use Internet resources to learn about when she completed her journey, how old she was, and how long it took her. Write a short paragraph about what you find. 

Jackson, Mississippi’s Water Crisis

Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi, recently faced a serious water crisis. The city’s water system has been failing for some time. In 2020, the Jackson water system failed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection, and the EPA declared the water unsafe to drink. The next year, a severe winter storm caused pipes to burst and left residents without water for a month. Since then, the water system has been unreliable, with water line breaks and boil advisories occurring regularly. In July 2021, the EPA and the city of Jackson entered into an agreement to address these issues and work to build a safe, dependable water system. Even so, for the past month, residents have been warned to boil their water before using it. During the last week of August, heavy rains and flooding pushed the city’s water treatment system to a breaking point. Jackson’s 150,000 residents had to wait in long lines for bottled water to use for drinking, cooking, and washing dishes. In many places, there wasn’t enough water coming through the pipes to flush toilets. 

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves declared a state of emergency and began urgent repairs and maintenance. He called in 600 National Guard troops to help pass out truckloads of bottled water. The National Guard helped repair the immediate damage and got the water flowing again. Schools that had been closed were reopened on Tuesday September 6th. The estimated cost of totally repairing Jackson’s water system is about $2 billion, which is far more than the city can afford. 

What Do You Think? In what ways is the Jackson water crisis similar to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan? In what ways is it different?