Cobalt and the Congo? Disciplines unite for ethical renewable energy
Political scientists are working with engineers, chemists and other hard scientists at Deakin to achieve “ethically green” renewable energies.
Cobalt is necessary in many batteries to stabilise the materials, but 80 per cent of the world’s cobalt comes from the politically-corrupt Democratic Republic of Congo. How will this affect future supply and what consequences will it have for its population and the local environment?
In an innovative cross-disciplinary move, political scientists from the Alfred Deakin Institute (ADI) are asking questions about chain of supply and procurement in Deakin’s energy research labs.
“It is here that we start to fathom the depth of science and the choices involved in choosing materials that will flow through to global production in the coming years,” said project leader Professor Linda Hancock, Professor of Politics and Policy Studies at ADI.
“It’s all about the whole ethical, social, human rights perspective being brought to science and science having that as an integral part of its daily work.”
Professor Hancock is working with ADI’s Dr Natalie Ralph and partners from six Australian universities to contribute to a theme within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES), examining and understanding holistic ethical issues for emerging alternative energy industries across the supply chain.
Dr Ralph said the project is seeking to educate scientists to look more broadly at what they do.
“As humanity shifts forward into the renewable energy era, it’s important that we look at the ethical, political and policy impacts of these technologies,” she said.
“We also need to consider future scarcity of these materials and whether that will affect affordability, particularly for people in developing countries.”
This video is the first in the Deakin Science and Society Network (SSN) Spotlight series that showcases the innovative interdisciplinary work of Deakin researchers. Professor Emma Kowal, Convenor of SSN, produced the video with Digital Content Assistant Giles Campbell-Wright, Dr Josh Newton and SSN Research Assistant Thao Phan.
“The Spotlight series will highlight the value of working across disciplines and show how Deakin researchers excel in this,” Prof Kowal said.