Out of sight, out of mine

Lecain claims all historical technological fixes can be categorized into three types or some combination thereof; transformational, relocation, and delaying techno-fix (Lecain, 138). Ultimately, these techno-fixes have lead to further environmental problems (LeCain, 139).  Transformational techno-fix, is defined as when a harmful consequence is transformed into something with more benefit. As with the Duckworth smelter transforming sulfur dioxide to sulfuric acid for fertilizer, this techno-fix appears as a good idea but can lead to unintended consequences later on, with the fertilizer running off into nearby rivers  (LeCain, 142). The second, relocation, is as the name suggests, the relocation of harmful products. The final category LeCain introduces, delaying techno-fix, was evident at the Anaconda Company with the preservation of arsenic in wood, thus delaying when the harmful product had to be dealt with. This lead to a gradual contamination of the area and medical issues for those in the surrounding areas.  All of these techno-fixes offer a promise for immediate relief without looking at the future consequences of our actions.

In an ideal world, we would be able to stop using all mined minerals, but in our ever evolving and technologically dependent society that is unrealistic.  However, we can better assess our means for obtaining these minerals and possible other methods. For example, copper can be extracted from wastewaters and recirculated to be used again.  Additionally, with the drive to have the latest and greatest technology, it is possible to obtain various metals from electronic waste and recycle them into later products. While these techniques would not alleviate our need for mined minerals, it would allow for a decrease in the quantity mined for each year, ultimately allowing for a slow decrease in mining as we work to develop techniques and technology that allow us to progress toward a mining free society.

One thought on “Out of sight, out of mine”

  1. I think what’s missing from Harari and some of the texts we have been reading is our reliance on mining and all other technological advancements we take for granted. While we might be individually “better off” as hunter gatherers without agriculture and technology, it’s clear to me that we wouldn’t have made it this far without tech. We should accept that the world isn’t moving backwards, and try to invent the best technological fixes we can. An example is China’s birth limit, while not an end-all solution it is certainly a socio-tech fix that has been given a lot of thought for the future prosperity of the country.

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