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Viewpoint: ‘Blood batteries’ highlight human rights issues, not an argument for fossil fuels

Guest columnist Juanita Austin responds to concerns around electric vehicles
Salmon Arm’s Jim McConnell and Juanita Austin spent 58 days over the summer travelling across the country and back in their electric vehicle. (Photo contributed)

By Juanita Austin

Special to the Observer

After reading my article (Salmon Arm couple put their electric vehicle to the test in cross-Canada road trip,, about our cross-Canada journey in our 2020 KIA Niro EV, a concerned citizen forwarded a video called The Dark Side of Electric Vehicles. They asked me to investigate it. I did.

The video I was asked to watch kept repeating the phrase “blood batteries.”

After watching it, I would like to share my response more widely, as I’m sure others may have similar concerns.

On the face of it, the video clip from the Rumble website is quite compelling. Who indeed could argue that it’s OK to have children working in dangerous situations all for the sake of someone else driving an electric car? It’s not. So is the alternative just to continue driving vehicles that use oil, gas and diesel?

Oil and gas companies have known since the 1950s, at leaset, that burning fossil fuels has contributed to rapid climate change and major health issues. Scientists have known this for much longer, but who wants to listen to that when it affects the economy of regular folk, and the profit margin of the fossil fuel company CEOs?

So, as a result of human caused climate change, we have over the past 10 years already seen weather events becoming increasingly extreme, causing death and mayhem around the world. However, I don’t see the folks at Rumble complaining about that. And things are going to get much worse if we don’t reverse our GHG emissions now.

Read more: Salmon Arm couple put their electric vehicle to the test in cross-Canada road trip

Read more: Canada falling behind as electric-vehicle sales pick up around the world

But it’s much easier to blame electric vehicles for using cobalt, than to put the brakes on fossil fuel use. It’s easier to use alliterations like ‘blood batteries’ and ‘ethical oil’ – making one type seem evil and the other benign or even beneficial, than to take a holistic approach and ask what we must sacrifice for the future survival of humanity and other life forms on the planet.

The commentator talked about child labour in the Congo. Since the 15th century, European nations have been exploiting the African continent – first for slaves and then for its resources of rubber, diamonds, coal, gold and other precious metals. There is a long and cruel history of exploitation. It can never be justified, but it’s not OK to pretend that it is just happening now, and just because of EVs.

I was glad to see the commentator mention Amnesty International calling out the child labour practices. I have a lot of respect for Amnesty and support their work around the world. I would be delighted if they, and other human rights groups, can pressure for better human rights conditions in the Congo, and in many other places around the world, where human rights are trampled in the pursuit of company profits.

Meanwhile, EV’s are evolving, and cleaner alternatives are being explored all the time. A few years ago, we were at the Reynolds museum in Wetaskiwin, Alta., and saw a 1912 electric car. I can’t help but think what better shape our climate could be in today if we had 100 years of developing EVs, rather than everything relying on fossil fuels. Here’s hoping for an ethical way forward and a cleaner, greener world for everyone.

Juanita Austin is a Shuswap resident and retired United Church pastor.
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