Lithium and the new energy frontier

Does Bolivia’s Salar De Uyuni desert hold the key to the world’s energy shortage?

Energy economists in London, New York and the Middle East predict that this unlikely windblown patch of salt in the Andes, a sea of emptiness with barely 60 tumbledown adobe villages encircling it, could, over the next two decades, become the next Saudi Arabia. Like the Persian Gulf before it in the 1920’s the Salar de Uyuni, or more specifically the vast quantities of Lithium beneath its Northern Ireland size salt table, could hold the answer to the future of transport but the fight to secure it could be one of the most defining energy issues of the next decade.


Opium’s journey

From the Afghan border to the mountains of Tajikistan to the night clubs of Moscow – opium’s journey

The process is repeated all over Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan in Central Asia. The powder is heated, drawn into the syringe, and then into a vein made plump by the tying off of an arm or a leg. En-route to Europe, Dushanbe is not the intended market for the Afghan produced drug. The impoverished state on the border with war torn nation does not hold enough wealth to make any real money. The target is Moscow and then Europe. Smuggling heroin over the porous 800 mile border between Afghanistan and Tajikistan is the easy bit: guards are easily bribed, lorries barely searched. Getting it to Moscow requires more effort. ‘Mules’ are employed to fill capsules with the white powder, and then fill their stomachs with the capsules. They must endure the short flight and then down a bottle of vodka once they reach Russia’s capital in order to throw up and offload their cargo. Often they are themselves addicts – the uncomfortable process helps pay for their addiction.


Prejudice in life, indifference in death

The drowning of two Roma girls in Italy uncovers a people under siege

Alongside a sepia portrait of the revered Capuchin friar, Padre Pio, stand blurry digital prints of 13-year-old Cristina and 11-year-old Violetta Djeordsevic – two Roma sisters whose sudden deaths in the shallow waters of a public beach on Italy’s Amalfi Coast encapsulated the threat of racism in modern Europe. It was a tragedy that, for a time, focused international attention on the ragged edge of Italy’s most chaotic city. The teenagers’ youth and beauty in the photographs, strangely, comes as a shock. Up until now, like most of the world, we had only seen their prostrate bodies, covered by short beach towels, with just their feet left exposed, on the scruffy beach at Torregaveta, a decrepit seaside suburb on the outer edge of the Bay of Naples. It was an image that shocked the Europe: two young Gypsy children lie dead for three hours on an Italian beach while, feet away, a carefree couple enjoy a leisurely picnic. The indifference, picked up by newspapers and TV stations across the world, was seen by the country’s liberal elite to be the final straw. The most senior Catholic in Naples, Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, was the quickest to point out the coarsening of human sentiment which the behaviour in Torregaveta represented: “Cristina and Violetta,” he told the Italian media, “had faced nothing but prejudice in life and indifference in death; an unforgivable truth.”


From victim to vigilante

A group of Bosnian rape victims are making a stand against their attackers, and, amidst growing frustration, hunting them down

THE atmosphere inside the bitterly cold office in the rundown urban outskirts of Sarajevo is awkward and brittle. At first nobody utters a word and then the thick black coffee and cheap Russian cigarettes arrive and the women become manic and talkative.

“This is the database,” says Bakira Plesic, pointing to the clumsily assembled rows of shelves behind her; stacks upon stacks of sky-blue books and folders. Inside the files, she says, are tens of thousands of testimonies of women and girls raped during the war in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995.


Climate Canaries

The first victims of climate change? The nomadic pastoralists of northern Kenya

In conference rooms and in academic papers, the experts call it ‘pervasive pre-famine conditions’. In the village, squatting on his brick-sized wooden stool in the red dirt of east Africa, Lokuwam Lokitalauk calls it a death sentence. His curses ricochet round the quiet village and his glaucoma-misted eyes dart off, surveying the stick-like spectres of children drifting listlessly about.