Our Eroding World

LeCain describes three different types of techno-fixes, those being the transformational techno-fix, relocational techno-fix, and delaying techno-fix. The first case study he focuses on, solving the problems which arose from mining in Ducktown, used both transformational and relocational techno-fixes by transforming the noxious sulfur dioxide into functional sulfuric acid and relocating it across North America and Europe. While this appeared to be an ideal solution, the fertilizer created from sulfuric acid had problematic effects on water systems, and essentially only served to change the pollutant from one form to another. LeCain uses the second case study, the Anaconda Company of Montana, to discuss the third type of techno-fix. Rather than transforming or relocating the produced arsenic, the delaying techno-fix made “the effects of the captured arsenic… more gradual and insidious” (LeCain 148). LeCain’s main argument regarding these techno-fixes is that they do not serve to solve our problems—rather, they create the illusion of a solution, while passing the problem down to future generations and other locations (LeCain 149).

I would say the best way to address these issues is to find effective substitutions for copper and other minerals and reusing the resources we have already harvested, rather than continuing our pattern of perpetually mining. As LeCain illustrated, techno-fixes are a false hope that we can undo the harm we do to the environment, while serving only to mask the damage that is being caused. Like most of our environmental problems, mining is an example of humans hurting the Earth because of our unsustainable dependency on limited resources. We can continue burning through these important resources, or we can engineer new ways to sustain our society without causing the world that surrounds us to erode.

2 thoughts on “Our Eroding World”

  1. I definitely agree with your point that we need to take better advantage of the resources we have already harvested- reusing and recycling them as much as possible- but there is no way to do so perfectly. Like a perpetual motion machine doesn’t actually work forever, a reused material begins to degrade, and some of it is lost in the recycling process. Also- innovation and production are happening more and faster than ever before- so even if we recycled every scrap down to the threads of materials like copper and gold in computer circuit boards, it wouldn’t be enough.
    About the only way I can see to stop all mining on earth is to look into mining asteroids and the like- but that is a drain on resources here all its own, and a very chancy thing to rely on having available considering it is unlikely to find exactly what we need to meet all our mining desires.

  2. While I think there is some truth to your statement about techno fixes, I feel that it is a bit harsh in some ways. Some technofixes are indeed, somewhat of a bandage solution, but many technofixes are not quite like that. During one of the lectures, even vaccines were said to be a technofix of some sort, and they certainly provide more good than bad. Furthermore, even though the fixes LeCain went over were not perfect, it is hard to say whether or not the world would have been better off without them. LeCain’s argument is that these fixes enabled more pollution, but changed the manifestation of its effects. However, I do not feel that that is true for all pollution related technofixes, and they are still a viable option that should be considered, it is just that we must more appropriately gauge the consequences of our actions.

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