Green Cars, Pink Flamingos and Yellow Journalism


While Volkswagen has been in the press for the emissions-cheating scandal, and while there continues to be linkage between vehicle emissions and climate change, the last thing we need is publicity around ecologically-friendly cars that falsely blames them for other ecological problems.

It’s not that we want to be blind to those problems – of course we want the facts.

But today, people “read” the news by scanning the headlines.  Come 0n, admit it.  You do it.

Recently I saw such a headline.  A cute, eye-catching headline along with pictures of cute flamingos.  It read: “Green Cars Causing Problems for Pink Flamingos“.  Sexy, huh?

But when one reads the article, it is not about cars at all (other than the fact that green cars – and not even all of them) use lithium batteries, and in turn, this has increased the demand for lithium, which has increased the mining of lithium, which has induced some miners to use poor practices, which (still with me?) can cause damage to the habitat of flamingos.

So is the problem the miners or the cars?  Lithium is used in many batteries, even those in old-fashioned fossil-fuel cars, laptops, flashlights, smartphones, you name it.  It’s a pretty disconnected assertion.  In fact, the article itself states that the miners won’t say if their product is sent to any particular auto manufacturer.

Add to this the idea that the car manufacturers are looking at other totally lithium-free technologies and you have a near total disconnect between green cars and falling flamingo populations.

I wrote the letter below to the Cape Cod Times, which, to their credit, published it, however I believe that it was Bloomberg which published the source article which is more responsible for trying to package the message in an irresponsible way, sending the typically distracted reader away thinking that they should go buy a gas-powered car to save the birds (when indeed that car will ALSO have lithium batteries).

Judge for yourself.

Here is a link to the article:

And below is the letter to the editor.