California’s largest lake is also its worst environmental catastrophe. The Salton Sea was formed accidentally in the early 20th Century, a result of human activity, and then it was left to languish. Its waters are drying out, industrial chemicals have seeped into the ground, millions of fish and other creatures have died. And the communities on the lake’s banks suffer, too – physiologically, socially, economically.
But is recovery now at hand? There’s talk of turning Salton Sea into Lithium Valley – because this white gold, as the element is sometimes known, is there in abundance, and the world needs it for various 21st-century innovations, including the batteries in electric cars. Already, billionaires like Warren Buffett are taking notice. Others are sure to follow. It’s very possible that this environmental disaster could become the basis of an environmental success story.
This week’s Tortoise Story is about the White Gold Rush. And it begins today with an episode of the Slow Newscast in which Miranda Green and Lucy Sherriff visit the Salton Sea and speak to the people on its edges – will lithium mean better lives for them, or just for Buffett and Elon Musk?
White Gold Rush isn’t the only podcast we’re releasing today. The sixth episode of my own series, ThinkIn with James Harding, on the Battle for Truth, is available both in and outside of the Tortoise app this morning. Its subject is Trump and Twitter, and I’m joined by guests including Anthony Scaramucci, former White House director of communications, and Kai Diekmann, former editor of Bild. Please do give it a listen – and, as always, let us know what you think.
And it’s a full week of ThinkIns, too:
- This evening, we wonder: Can art save the planet? Frances Morris, the director of Tate Modern, and John Akomfrah CBE, the artist, writer and filmmaker, will join the discussion.
- Tomorrow morning’s business breakfast is with Alison Rose, the CEO of Natwest and the first woman to lead one of the UK’s big four banks.
- At 6.30pm BST on Wednesday, the philosopher A.C. Grayling and the Revd Lucy Winkett will help us deal with the tiny question of: What can we know?
- Then, on Thursday evening, What kind of man is the next King? We’ll spend an hour analysing Prince Charles – and what he might bring to the throne.
And please don’t miss our latest Sensemaker, the Net Zero Sensemaker, which launched last week – a newsletter focused on the climate emergency. The latest edition should hit inboxes on Tuesday.
Editor & co-founder