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TV review: Panorama: The Electric Car Revolution: Winners and losers and The Princes and the Press

03 December 2021

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Panorama: The Electric Car Revolution: Winners and losers (BBC1, Wednesday of last week) revealed expected heroines

Panorama: The Electric Car Revolution: Winners and losers (BBC1, Wednesday of last week) revealed expected heroines

ALL power to the Sisters! Last week’s Panorama, front runner in the year’s clunkiest title awards with The Electric Car Revolution: Winners and losers (BBC1, Wednesday of last week), revealed unexpected heroines.

This was one of those sobering exposes of how very difficult it is to make what seems on the face of it an obviously virtuous, even self-denying, choice: for the sake of the planet and to reverse global warming, I will ditch my petrol-driven motor and buy an electric car. But such vehicles need large batteries, and batteries — in the current state of technology — require minerals so scarce that they are found in very few places on earth: lots and lots of cobalt.

Our socio-politico-economic system is so appallingly skewed that the place where most of it is mined, Kolwezi, in the Congo, which helps to make the world’s richest company even richer, is one of the poorest on earth, with little education, health care, or relief from hunger. Of the mineral, 30 per cent is dug out by hand from precarious, unregulated shafts and holes in the ground, rife with accidents, maimings, and fatalities.

The fiercest critics are the local Good Shepherd nuns, magnificently exemplifying Christian discipleship, as they work out their vocation not only through prayer but also through the most practical good works; teaching, empowering, feeding, healing — and by speaking out. They are determined to make the world understand the true cost of an electric-car battery, and are taking this mission to the top, buying shares so that they can confront Tesla’s AGM and make it realise the effect of its world domination.

Tesla’s chief executive, Elon Musk, the richest man alive, now sets his sights way beyond the earth: only space is a large enough canvas for his ambitions. The Sisters demand that he first pay attention to what takes place beneath his feet, the sordid reality on which his unimaginable wealth is based. As a model for Advent self-examination, we can — setting aside the wealth bit — all learn from that.

When you attract biting criticism from all sides, you must be doing something right. Amol Rajan’s The Princes and the Press (BBC2, Monday of last week; second part Monday) has been greeted with howls of wrath by the tabloid press and sniffy rejection from the Palace; so perhaps he’s offering the impartial balance that the BBC is supposed to serve up.

Princes William and Harry and our mass media engage in an eternal dance, oscillating between stand-off, confrontation, and appeasement. Do the royals try to manipulate, surreptitiously control, the narrative? How much invasion of personal privacy must they accept, what titbits must they throw off the sledge to satisfy the snarling pack of wolves, to keep at bay the unsheathed fangs of exposé and revelation? The Royal Family is the gold coin that bankrolls tabloid fortunes, the drip-feed of feelgood adulation never quite obscuring the depths of venom just waiting to be unleashed.

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