Techno-Fix or Techno-Fail

LeCain discusses three types of techno-fixes and how each one is used to create and solve problems. The techno-fixes described are transformational, relocational, and delaying techno-fixes. A great case study was Anaconda Company in the mid-1900s. Anaconda Company was emitting massive amounts of arsenic into the air through their smokestacks, and they found a way to transform a lot of that arsenic into a pesticide using an electrostatic precipitator, where it was relocated to the cottonfields of the south. This is an immediate, even profitable fix for Anaconda Company, but all it does is transform the toxin and relocate it from one location to the next, incorporating two of the three techo-fixes LeCain discusses. Another type of techno-fix described was the delaying techno-fix. LeCain discusses Anacondas “pressure- treated mine timbers with an arsenical solution to help preserve them in the hot and humid underground mines”(LeCain, 148), as a type of delaying techno-fix. This is an example of a delaying techno-fix because it effectively returned a lot of the arsenic to the underground environment it had initially came from, which posed little immediate threat, years later it lead to the contamination of hundreds of miles of underground waterways.

LeCain discusses how these technofixes only create more harm in the long run. Although the scientists and engineers responsible for the techno-fixes may have good intentions, the technological fixes enable the corporations to continue production and continue to pollute the environment on a massive scale. LeCain states, “Rather than face the difficult reality that mining and smelting the copper ores produced substantial amounts of dangerous chemicals that were very difficult to safely use or dispose of, smelter managers used techno-fixes like sulfuric acid plants and electrostatic precipitators to preserve, rather than abandon or fundamentally modify, their hazardous industrial system.”(LeCain, 151). I think that we need copper and other minerals even though there is waste produced in the mining process, but that we need to look at all the mistakes made by companies like Anaconda Company and as LeCain states, fundamentally try to modify the industry, rather than rely on techno-fixes. As for how to fundamentally modify the mining industry so there isn’t any waste produced, I have no idea. If I did have an answer I would be sitting on millions of dollars right now rather than writing this blog post!

One thought on “Techno-Fix or Techno-Fail”

  1. Great summary of the reading! It was incredibly shocking to me that people thought it was a good idea to just transform the toxin and have it affect a different ecosystem. It was able to help the area around the copper mine not be affected as badly but it certainly wasn’t a perfect fix. I know that these engineers are not intending on doing continual environmental damage but their fixes seemed to enable the mining industry and allow them to continue their hazardous practices relatively unimpeded. We do need copper and therefore we do need mining. Until someone is able to come up with a technically and environmentally sound alternative to copper their will always be that need for the mining industry to continue.

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