2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Reconfigurations of Life Cycle Assessment: Valuing Life over Lithium

Presented at Equity, Culture & Social Justice in Education Division (EQUITY) Technical Session 5

Within much of dominant engineering education that focuses on sustainability, a narrative exists that electric vehicles are a seemingly universal good in combating climate change. Common sense within dominant engineering culture has been constructed to frame lithium as a critical element in ‘green’ energy storage that underpins U.S. based technological moves away from fossil fuels. The analytic of life cycle assessment (LCA), as a technique that purports to account for the environmental aspects associated with a ‘product’ over its life cycle, is often used to generate the data legitimizing these narratives. Yet the accountings LCA offers obscure much of the context any analyzed product is situated within. Taking an exemplary focus on the drive toward transportation electrification via lithium based energy storage technologies, this work in progress paper looks into death-making onto-epistemic underpinnings and metanarratives LCA provides cover for.
Here, an interwoven framework of abolition, degrowth, and environmental justice is offered as a lens to analyze what maintains present constructions of LCA. Focusing on LCAs of lithium ion batteries (LIB)s offers a window into the constructions of symbolic life advanced in dominant engineering. Deconstructing the foundations of this death-making understanding of life as product in LCA offers a basis for reorienting engineering education involving LCA toward non-dominant narratives rooted in the affirmation of life.

  1. Dr. Joey Valle Purdue University [biography]
Download paper (839 KB)

Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper? Visit the ASEE document repository at peer.asee.org for more tools and easy citations.

» Download paper

« View session

For those interested in:

  • New Members