Personal story

The struggle to protect our home

The struggle to protect our home
Lithium mines in Serbia threaten to completely change our landscape and, with it, our lives and culture.

Western Serbia is home to beautiful nature, fertile land, and some of Europe’s last wild rivers and protected species. It is my home, too. Birds love to take a break here on long trips to Africa and raspberry farmers make many kids happy around the world. But we are most proud of plums, the main ingredient of our national drink Sljivovica, a plum brandy that is on the UNESCO “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

Right after I was born, my parents tied my stroller to plum trees so I wouldn’t roll downhill, laying the foundation for my first memories: fighting a bee over a single plum. The bee won that battle making my hand as big as an adult’s and, without realizing it, turning me into a fighter for all of them: bees, plums, stream trouts and all other free creatures.

Today we are in the middle of a much bigger battle: Europe and China are fighting for domination in the electric car industry with lithium being a crucial mineral in car batteries. Overpriced and in demand, lithium reserves kept quiet under our plum trees and raspberry fields, counting on the great fighting spirit of the still “undeveloped” society above ground, making this battle the greatest one for our generation.

One day my village was listed as a mining site. A film project I was working on completely came to a halt and my life was forever changed as I joined the struggle to protect our home, not just the plot of land but all of it. The sounds of the animals. The rushing waters. The tastes. The sights. The air.

Lithium mines in Serbia threaten to completely change our landscape and, with it, our lives and culture. Green and fertile lands will become home for tailings (the material left behind from mining). Blue rivers will turn red. Tens of thousands of people will be moved from their land, leaving behind villages that will only exist in our memories.

As we are forced to fight for our homes, I am left with these questions: How can an economy overrun ecology? Can we do more for generations to come?

Story by Ivan Nikolić from Marš Sa Drine, activists, experts & local residents united against mining of lithium in Serbia / meštani, gradjani i stručnjaci ujedinjeni protiv iskopavanja litijuma.

Art by Luise Hesse @lufie.nesse. Luise is a German illustrator and part of Climate Illustrated’s art team.

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