Flowering sage covers the desert. Layers of rolling hills and a few rocky cliffs shape the horizon. I wander up a dry creek bed lined with trees on Thacker Pass in Humboldt County, Nevada. The dry air is thick with the fragrance of sage, mixed with juniper and pinion. I imagine the artery of long-awaited water that flows here after rain. The three-pronged footprints of a greater sage-grouse dot the sand. The sky turns shades of crimson, orange, and purple. My body relaxes in the novel and hypnotic silence.
For two decades, I have witnessed the healing powers of nature as a wilderness guide. Teaching people to listen to the song of the Earth, track their dreams, and discover their soul’s purpose, I encourage them to partner with the natural world and transform our culture. Listening to dreams is empowering. The intelligence, generosity, and magic I have experienced are beyond what the rational mind would understand.
Transformation, however, is more than a solo act. Soul-making is a collaboration tied to the fate of Earth, stretching us to dream communally, organize collectively, and act—humbly, boldly, and in relationship to the visions we receive. We can organize, resist, and bring down the corrupt order of our culture and its dependence on the enforced misery of many and the brutal exploitation of nature, hopefully while there is still some wilderness left alive.
As I continue to walk, a large hole catches my eye. Who lives here, I wonder, a fox or a pygmy rabbit? Scrambling up a rock face, I peer into crevices, hoping to see a horned lizard, pika, or chipmunk. A few bats fly out and circle overhead. Atop the cliff, I stare into a vast undulating sea of sagebrush, punctuated by dark silhouettes of the surrounding mountains that stand like quiet gods whispering to the waves. Scanning for mule deer, elk, desert bighorn sheep, and pronghorn, for whom this is a primary migration corridor, I wish this place could live on, unharmed.
Reflecting on the lithium mine slated to be built here, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. Why would the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) allow Lithium Nevada to damn this place? There are no lights or human sounds anywhere. This land is so wild, free, and unspoiled—but it may not be this time next year. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021. I pull my arms out of their sleeves and bring them inside my jacket. Hugging my torso, I try to calm myself. Birdsong pierces the silence. Who will speak for the voiceless, I wonder. Who will make amends for their suffering?
The Thacker Pass lithium mine would destroy roughly 5,545 acres of land, pump up to 3,250 gallons of groundwater per minute, and utilize 2,900 tons of acid per day. Hundreds of tons of sulphur waste from oil refineries would be trucked in and burned daily, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and causing awful smelling acid rain. A semi tanker of diesel—11,300 gallons—would burn daily. All this, while we are told by green-tech marketers, politicians, and even environmentalists that electric cars, the main catalyst behind the skyrocketing demand for lithium, have zero emissions.
Some of the last wildernesses left in the lower forty-eight states are in Nevada. My outrage extends beyond the millionaires who own Lithium Nevada, a subsidiary of the Canadian-owned Lithium Americas Corporation, to those who first made the whole extraction industry–coal, oil, gas, and trees–acceptable. Lithium Americas replicates what oil and gas companies have always done—steal from the land and future generations to make millionaires richer—but now they call it green.