Elon’s anti-journalist tweets are getting weird, man.
This is going to take me a second to unpack, but stay with me.
The other day The Times of India republished a story from Bloomberg that kind of maybe sort of possibly definitely accused Tesla of killing a bunch of flamingos. The original Bloomberg piece hedged a bit with the title “Green Cars Cause Damage of Their Own as Flamingo Flocks Shrink,” but The Times of India went all in and re-titled it “How Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors maybe killing flamingos with its electric cars.”
The meat of the story is that there’s an increasing amount of lithium mining going on in the Chilean desert, sucking up salty water saturated with lithium. And all of that water extraction is depleting the area’s lagoons. Beautiful flamingos inhabit these lagoons, and all of the mining is, in effect, destroying their habitat. The article goes on to describe how much the locals miss the flamingos, particularly their once-plentiful and presumably quite delicious eggs:
At 79, Vicente Conzue has spent most of his life in the southern part of the salt flats. “There was water everywhere and there were lots of flamingos,” he says from his traditional sun-dried brick house in Peine, a hamlet on the edge of the salt flat.
Once a year, the elders of the local indigenous community used to chose a group of about 25 people that were allowed to harvest vitamin-rich flamingo eggs. “We ate them boiled and in salads, we took as many as 50 eggs each and there were still enough left for the flamingos to keep breeding,” Conzue says. That doesn’t happen any more.
The problem with the story is that the link to Elon and Tesla is more than a little suspect. Tesla (as well as GM, the article notes) uses lithium in its battery packs, the article argues, so they’re responsible for all of this terrible flamingo death. But Tesla is far from the only company that uses lithium – they’re used in pretty much every laptop and smartphone battery as well – and the article admits it has no idea if Tesla is actually relying on any of these flamingo-killing Chilean mining operations. The article focuses only on two mining operations and then explains that they don’t actually know if they supply Tesla:
Whether the two are supplying Tesla or Chevrolet is anyone’s guess. The mining companies have declined to identify their customers, and the car companies have declined to comment. SQM will only say it sells to the “largest producers of batteries” and other products.
Quasi-Tesla-fanboy site Elektrek chimed in after the story’s release, saying that not only is there no evidence to link Tesla to the two damaging mining operations highlighted in the article, but Tesla has been linked to a different Chilean mining operation:
It was revealed late last year that Tesla visited Chile to meet with a mining company in order to supply its Gigafactory, which is about to start battery cell production. The company in question was Codelco, the country’s no.1 producer of copper in the world by volume and even though it currently doesn’t operate any lithium mine, it has been evaluating the possibility to exploit the resource which is abundant in Chile.
Elon himself weighed in with this hopefully legendarily tone deaf tweet:
This is a bad tweet.
I get that this is some attempt at sarcasm, but of all the things in this article, mining companies killing flamingos is not the one to belittle. Elon didn’t have to go out against the fucking flamingos. He could have just said something like “we’re reviewing our supply chain but we have no evidence to say we’re killing flamingos,” or “this article is crazy Tesla doesn’t kill flamingos,” or “Tesla does not do anything to harm the proud and beautiful flamingo, a misunderstood and easily-mocked beast.”
The article might be wrong in accusing Tesla of harming flamingos, but it’s not wrong in saying that there is an environmental problem here, Tesla or not. Elon’s missing that. He’s ignoring the critical incorrectness of the article and choosing to belittle the flamingos. What the hell, man.
I thought that a billionaire like Elon Musk would not feel the need to angrily tweet out rebuttals to bizarre news stories about him. I guess I was wrong.