In Lecain’s two case studies, his critique of the transformational, relocational and delaying technological fixes revolves around the law of unintended consequences. Even though the engineers developed technologies that addressed, and indeed rectified the existing problems associated with smelter smoke, they are unable to foresee the future ramifications of the fix. “As with the Ducktown case, the success of the technological fixes used to solve the arsenic pollution problem at Anaconda is finally ambiguous” (Lecain, p. 149). As we have discussed in this class, with the narrowing scope of vision in specialization, “there is no evidence to suggest…the experts who worked on the arsenic problem gave any serious thought to the secondary consequences of the captures and reused arsenic. As with the Ducktown techno-fix…processes took the arsenic outside of Cottrel’s narrowly focused areas of environmental expertise…” (Lecain, p. 150). “The techno-fix solution was at least to some degree illusory. The problems of that time and place were met largely by shifting them to the future generations and other places” (Lecain, p. 149).
It’s hard to imagine a world with copper. To say we should simply abandon mining due to the environmental dangers is as narrowly defined thinking as the approach many of the engineers took in offering techno-fixes. We do have to think on a much broader scale when undertaking any environmentally consequential action. The first question should always be “How much do we need this?” If it is for the greater good, a multi-disciplinary team of scientist, thinkers, and the public should carefully evaluate the costs and benefits for the immediate and the future. There is never a way to be 100% on anything, but we should know by now quick fixes, even when they are well thought-out, generally result in unintended consequences down the road.