Minerals Are A Girls Best Friend

Using the cases of Ducktown and Anaconda, Lecain demonstrates the blanket techno-fixes of the time and their ultimate failure: transformational techno-fix, relocational techno-fix, and delaying techno-fix. Lecain argues that the creation of these fixes failed to predict or address future potential issues, resulting in more environmental issues. In Ducktown, they used both the transformational and the relocational techno-fix. They used the transformation of sulfur dioxide gas into sulfuric acid to create and relocate fertilizer. However, the fertilizer consequently ran off into nearby water and eventually, “considerable eutrophication of water systems has resulted.” (p.142) Additionally, Anaconda used all three techno-fixes with their own catastrophic results. Part of their delaying techno-fix led to arsenic-treated wood being used to build mine shafts that flooded once they closed, resulting in arsenic leaching into the groundwater. LeCain shows the potential for bad consequences due to the limited knowledge in fields of study at the time. He argues that those engineers at least somewhat cared for the earth, but when their techno-fixes fix their area of expertise and transfer the result to somewhere unknown, they didn’t have the knowledge and understanding to predict what might happen. Perhaps today, the risk would be mitigated by our sufficiently increased knowledge.

There is no going back in time to eliminate our use and dependence on copper and other minerals. Despite our current knowledge, we still need these minerals in our society. Realistically, perhaps we could eventually replace our use of these minerals rather than attempting to diminish the use of the created products. That said, LeCain’s argument is important to understanding the history and the risks of technological fixes. In order for these to hopefully work without creating more consequences, different areas of expertise must work together. If we can predict poor outcomes and mitigate them, we can avoid a solution and a problem being created simultaneously. He gives a good argument as to a potential reason why those past consequences occurred and it seems plausible that with our considerably increased knowledge, we can do better.