September 7, 2022

James Morton Turner

Harvard Book Store, the Harvard University Division of Science, and the Harvard Library welcome JAMES MORTON TURNER—author and professor of environmental studies at Wellesley College—for a discussion of his new book Charged: A History of Batteries and Lessons for a Clean Energy Future. He is joined in conversation by ADAM ROME—professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo.


To achieve fossil fuel independence, few technologies are more important than batteries. Used for powering zero-emission vehicles, storing electricity from solar panels and wind turbines, and revitalizing the electric grid, batteries are essential to scaling up the renewable energy resources that help address global warming. But given the unique environmental impact of batteries―including mining, disposal, and more―does a clean energy transition risk trading one set of problems for another?

In Charged, James Morton Turner unpacks the history of batteries to explore why solving "the battery problem" is critical to a clean energy transition. As climate activists focus on what a clean energy future will create―sustainability, resiliency, and climate justice―the history of batteries offers a sharp reminder of what building that future will consume: lithium, graphite, nickel, and other specialized materials. With new insight on the consequences for people and communities on the frontlines, Turner draws on the past for crucial lessons that will help us build a just and clean energy future, from the ground up.

About Author(s)

James Morton Turner is professor of environmental studies at Wellesley College. He is author of The Promise of Wilderness: American Environmental Politics since 1964 and coauthor of The Republican Reversal: Conservatives and the Environment from Nixon to Trump.

Adam Rome is an expert on the history of our relationship with the environment. He has written about suburban sprawl and the rise of the environmental movement, the first Earth Day, and efforts to green capitalism. From 2002 to 2005, he edited the journal Environmental History. He is a professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo.