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Associate Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the University of Michigan


Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at UVA

Head of the MA Social Design Masters at Design Academy Eindhoven

Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan

Meeting ID: 915 6777 0215     Passcode: Lithium


The race to increase lithium-based battery manufacturing capacity worldwide is redrawing the global economic order. In the National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries 2021–2030 [1], the U.S. government set a goal to "secure battery materials and the technology supply chain in support of long-term economic competitiveness and equitable job creation, decarbonization, social justice, and national security." The report recognizes the ubiquitousness of lithium-based batteries in uses from consumer electronics to defense, transportation electrification, stationary grid storage, manufacturing, and more. By turning lithium into a matter of national security, the Biden–Harris Administration has stewarded a multibillion-dollar effort to incentivize North American manufacturing and material sourcing through the Inflation Reduction Act [2] and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law [3].

These investment priorities signal major opportunities for economic development and are already driving massive socio-spatial transformations from cities' cores to distant hinterlands. A new geopolitical order is taking shape—new extractive technologies are enabling more distributed mining prospecting, and federal funding is fueling the decentralization of traditional manufacturing regions towards emerging areas like the Battery Belt [4] or the Lithium Valley [5]. As a result, states are competing to attract multibillion-dollar battery gigafactories and are adding more and more infrastructure to serve and connect them. While this massive mobilization of public funding is animating the economy in service of national priorities, this approach carries deep contradictions and requires critical examination.

Acting in response to the climate crisis requires reassessing current extractive and manufacturing practices, not accelerating them. Environmental concerns about habitat loss and fragmentation, land and water dispossession, Indigenous and local communities' rights, and pollution driven by manufacturing and distribution remain critical concerns. While massive investments will drive future urban transformation and bring prosperity to communities nationwide, how can designers help envision a more just energy transition? Can we use the power of design to imagine a path toward decreased consumption and to reverse the alarming trends of planetary devastation?

This panel invites contributors to discuss a wide-ranging set of approaches to the just urban transition through the lens of lithium manufacturing and distribution, from emergent industrial types and infrastructural logics to policy advocacy, urban governance approaches, community organizing, and more. In every instance, we want to consider the need to redistribute challenges and opportunities across territories and communities, reclaiming a more active role for designers in the process.


[1] “National Blueprint for Lithium Batteries 2021–2030, Executive Summary.”

[2] “Building a Clean Energy Economy: A Guidebook to the Inflation Reduction Act's Investments in Clean Energy and Climate Action.”

[3] The White House, “FACT SHEET: Biden–Harris Administration Driving U.S. Battery Manufacturing and Good-Paying Jobs,” October 2022.

[4] George Downs, “America's New' Battery Belt' Is Shifting the Auto Industry South,” The Wall Street Journal, March 2023. 

[5] The Lithium Valley.

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