Doe[S] Anybody Else Think The Name “Ducktown” is Fant[As]tic?

 

It is time to once again insult and criticize the poor Technological Fix. I think that guy deserves a break but for the purposes of an excellent blog post, let’s talk about what LeCain has to say about all this. LeCain describes a couple of case studies (as I am sure you are all aware), one in Ducktown regarding sulfur (that’s the [S] in the title), specifically sulfur dioxide, and one in Deer Lodge regarding arsenic ([As]…see?). He highlights three different kinds of techno-fixes: the transformational, relocational, and delaying techno-fix (LeCain, 138). LeCain discusses how the initial environmental issue in each respective town was fixed and just what type of fix was implemented. Correct me if I’m wrong but what I got from this reading is that LeCain eventually ends up making the point that each of the three types of techno-fixes…kinda sucks. For example, he uses Ducktown’s conversion of sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid as a prime example of the transformational techno-fix, for obvious reasons. This seems like a great idea, since it protects the environment while turning a harmful substance into a “useful product” (LeCain, 141). He then moves into this solution as a relocational techno-fix, because the sulfuric acid is moved to farmer’s fields as fertilizer (Gotta love an accidental alliteration). Everything seems just peachy until the fertilizer causes fertilizer run-off and therefore causes eutrophication in nearby bodies of water (LeCain, 142). We get our first taste of the delaying techno-fix when in Deer Lodge, the arsenic is converted to pesticide and used in cotton fields, where its dangerous potential is no big deal until it has accumulated for years in the ground. As you can see, all the techno-fixes are eventually seen as having negative consequences. I understand the secondary harmful effects of techno-fixes, but I still think this is a little harsh, I mean, they do solve the initial problem after all…

 

This second question is a little more difficult. Does whether or not we “need” something change just because we know it has negative consequences? Does knowing that cows produce methane or that meat chickens are often raised in rather cruel environments stop me from eating them? No, it does not. It actually motivates me even more to buy their meat because the end product has already been produced and I’d hate to not appreciate it after all those negative aspects. That probably sounded really irrelevant, but I guess I’m saying that I wouldn’t boycott copper just because it was mined in a way that was bad for the environment. In terms of whether or not we should continue to mine these minerals like copper in spite of the fact that we know it is so damaging, I  sort of think so. I know I sound like I don’t care about the environment, but I most certainly do, I am just looking at these issues in practical terms and I think that we may be able to regulate mining and keep it under control, but not stop it all together. Think about everywhere copper wire is used. Think about batteries. Think about dishes or even pennies. Copper has infiltrated our society and become our best buddy, but it comes at a cost. If you don’t like copper, think about literally anything else that has to be mined, or anything that is produced in less than environmentally friendly ways. I think we do still need these things, and want them, too. With regards to LeCain’s argument about techno-fixes, I still think there is hope for them and that we will eventually figure out how to protect our environment and use the materials we need, even if that requires more planning on the front end.

 

2 thoughts on “Doe[S] Anybody Else Think The Name “Ducktown” is Fant[As]tic?”

  1. I think it’s important to recognize that LeCain didn’t see tech-fixes as unsuccessful, just that they generally had unforeseen negative consequences. The fixes LeCain mentioned definitely did help, but that doesn’t mean that those are acceptable solutions now that we know more. I agree that we definitely can’t just stop mining copper, as it’s one of the best conductors and without it we would lose much of our electronics industry. The question then becomes how will we deal with the problems we’ve created and how will we keep problems from happening again. It’s going to take a lot of effort and there will be issues, but at this point we have no other option.

  2. I think your comparison of the mining industry to the food industry is a very interesting observation. When negative methods of production are ingrained so deeply into our society, as is environmentally damaging mining and cruel treatment of meat animals, it is difficult to conceptualize a way to change it. The power of the singular consumer is virtually worthless—one person boycotting the products of an industry is not going to make monumental changes in the market, especially in the case of copper, which has many mandatory uses, as you listed; it would require a great deal of effort to reinvent in a way which does not damage the environment in search of more materials, and as consumers we have little ability to inspire this change.

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