We refuse to be experimental zones for climate change programs that have unproven benefits and unknown environmental impacts, such as lithium extraction. We’re two community advocates and concerned citizens of North Shore and Salton City, asking for our communities to be recognized in the decision-making process. We are concerned that the profits that will result from lithium development are more important to decision-makers than our health. The lives of immigrants, children, and low-income people of color are worth more than the profits of lithium extraction. We experience the climate crisis every day through extreme heat, storms, high energy costs, and poor air quality.
Climate solutions must not cause us more problems.
Over a year ago, we began to ask the regional, state, and federal agencies to keep us informed and involved. This request continues to be unmet.
Government agencies say they are moving forward with lithium extraction the “right way,” but our experience has been that the Lithium Valley Commission and local, state, and federal elected representatives are moving forward without listening to us. To us, the right way means that every resident living around the Salton Sea region must be informed of the impacts of lithium extraction and have the opportunity to engage in the development of a strategy that benefits and does not hurt their neighborhoods.
Thus far, we have not received answers to our questions regarding processes and policies related to lithium. For instance, when we pose serious questions to the Lithium Valley Commission and local, state, and federal elected representatives about potential contamination, water usage, and development of the lithium supply chain, we’re ignored.
The lack of answers is concerning because if we don’t know the true cost and consequences of lithium extraction, then this effort is an experiment with our lives, homes, and communities.
What happens if this experiment fails?
To people who don’t live near the Salton Sea, failure would mean not yielding promised benefits of resource extraction. But for our communities, failure could mean more environmental contamination in our neighborhoods and subsequent impacts to our health.
Lithium’s promise of profits requires a workforce. Communities like North Shore and Salton City are home to hardworking people who are the lifeline of the agricultural and tourism economies in eastern Riverside and Imperial counties. But we are more than a workforce. We deserve equitable economic development opportunities that improve our quality of life.
More underpaid and exploitative jobs that make us sick are not worth it.
We ask all government agencies to work with the entire community, not just a select few, on plans and policies that will affect all of us. A report prepared by the Lithium Valley Commission is due to the State of California in October. It will determine a path forward on lithium extraction and with it, a path forward for all of our communities.
We request that the Lithium Valley Commission consider the community recommendations we’ve continuously voiced regarding the process for developing the report and for what should be in the report. This is an opportunity to do things differently and actively include community perspectives.
We cannot continue to accept a culture of neglect toward our communities. We know lithium extraction and the development of a supply chain are coming; so we ask for the truth about their impacts and a seat at the table to help protect our neighborhoods.
Cecilia Dora Armenta has lived with her family of four in Salton City for 29 years. She is an active member in her local church where she volunteers as a catechist. Cecilia is also a member of West Shores Lion’s Club Chapter and Coachella Valley Parents, as well as an active community partner with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability.
Elizabeth Jaime has been a resident of North Shore for 12 years. She is a concerned mother of two children with asthma. Elizabeth is an active community leader through her work with Lideres Campesinas and Alianza Nacional de Campesinas in agricultural worker rights, domestic violence prevention, and pesticide regulation advocacy.
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: On lithium extraction near salton sea, community needs input