I found this reading interesting because it tied together a few of the topics we have been exploring in the past few weeks. The first topic that comes to mind is that of technological fixes. In essence, what LeCain is describing when he talks about ventilation and fire suppression systems is a form of technical fix. Without the advance in these types of technologies, there is no way that human beings would be able to drill that deep into the earth. Another of the key points this week’s reading brings up is the idea that not all engineering projects are created equal. When dealing with environmental challenges, just like in the example of the “Trophic Cascade” we looked at earlier in the semester, environmental engineering is extremely difficult because all the parts are interconnected in some form or another. LeCain explained in his example of the fire: Certain safety precautions and procedures that had been put in place actually worked against the miners because the environmental engineers failed to take into account the whole picture of what was going on in the environment of the mine. “As mines began to sink thousands of feet below the surface, the problems of subterranean flooding, heat, and ventilation grew ever more challenging.” (LeCain Page 37) The error here was that this new and fancy ventilation system simply blew in all the poisonous carbon monoxide that ultimately aided in killing hundreds of miners.
The second question is interesting because it brings into consideration the topic of socio and political questions. If we say, for the purpose of argument, that mining is essential and it must be done somewhere, some living in a city such as New York, San Francisco or Chicago is likely to say, “Put it out in the middle of nowhere, like Montana. No one lives out there.” The issue of course is that, in the case of the Berkeley pit, lots of people do live there and they don’t want to deal with the negative consequences either. I think mining can and must be done safely however it is likely to cost mining companies a lot more money. Lots of the environmental challenges we are facing today might have been avoided if the mining companies of the past had been less greedy. Being environmentally friendly doesn’t have to, but often does, cost a lot and when considering the “bottom line,” it is easy to become greedy and complacent and make poor decisions that will impact our environment for years to come.