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2016 The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Small Newsroom winner

Chasing Lithium

The Hidden World Behind the 21st Century’s Most Valuable Resource

Judges comments

A beautifully executed, well-rounded package.

About the Project

Lithium-ion batteries have changed the way we live. From the cellphones in our pockets to our satellites in outer space, most modern electronics run on lithium technology. And our dependence on batteries is growing. As environmental and political demands force us to look beyond oil, we are relying more and more on lithium-powered technology. It is likely that in the next 20 years our cars, homes, and offices will all depend on lithium batteries.

As we shift from a fossil fuel-driven energy paradigm to a lithium-powered world, have we truly come up with a green and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels, or are we replacing oil with another deeply problematic natural resource?

Chasing Lithium is an interactive multimedia story that investigates the hidden world behind the 21st century’s most valuable resource. From mining in the salt flats of Bolivia, to battery design in US labs, to China’s electronic waste economy, this project explores the human, geopolitical, and environmental costs of our dependence on lithium. The project features four chapters with video, photographs, data visualizations, and text that reveal the true story of the element that powers our lives.