[Green Flame] Industrial Solar is Destroying the Mojave Desert

REMINDER: This Sunday, November 22nd, join us for a live streaming event—Drawing the Line: Stopping the Murder of the Planet—featuring Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, Chris Hedges, and grassroots activists from around the world.

The event will begin at 1pm Pacific (2100 UTC) and will be live streamed at https://givebutter.com/deepgreen.


For this episode, we speak with Laura Cunningham of Basin and Range Watch about dozens of large solar energy projects threatening the Mojave and Great Basin deserts in Nevada and eastern California. We explore why utility-scale solar built on habitat is not a solution.

From this episode:

Now that I have seen ten years of solar build out. I was opposing the giant Ivanpah solar power towers in Eastern California deserts. That was a beautiful sloping desert next to the Mojave national preserve, full of Mojave yuccas, rare plants, wild flower blooms. We’d find horn lizards, black throated sparrows. cactus rinds, beautiful little slidewater snakes, harmless, just wanting to live in this area. Tortoises, a lot of tortoises. And it all got flattened, graded, run over by heavy machinery. Now it’s just a disturbed weed field with a giant fence around it. I looked about it. The whole of project – I think it was about 400 MW of energy, but it had a natural gas backup. Then we saw others, and others, still others. Tens of thousands of acres of deserts going under the blades of solar panels. I have not noticed a decline in carbon emissions. Of course, this is just one part of the world: the Mojave desert.

But it does make me think more recently: how much solar will it take to cover the desert before we see that downturn in carbon emissions? I think never. It’s this never ending scenario of needing more and more land, but we are not going to reduce our standard of living. I’ve heard different numbers regarding the pandemic: 17% decline in carbon emissions, maybe it was 12. A sort of a gigantic lowering of carbon emission, what we’d been wanting to have. But it took us really lowering our standard of living. Being much more efficient. Not burning a lot of fossil fuels. That’s actually, maybe, what we have to do in a non-pandemic situation: alter our whole way of living on the globe. And it’s a daunting task. Here we are going to build 60,000 acres of photovoltaic projects. Some of them will have Lithium-ion battery bank storage on protected Joshua tree habitats. That, I predict, will not lower carbon emissions one iota.

Our music for this episode is Melodi från Vest-Agder by Tim Eastwood of Dic Penderyn.

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