Techno-illogical Fixes

Using the framework of industrial mining and smelting, LeCain categorizes technological fixes and ultimately calls for the broadening of environmental solutions. LeCain argues that transformational techno-fixes turn problems into “new products whose environmental consequences [scientists have] not yet investigated” and that relocational fixes merely “removed the pollutants to new ecosystems [engineers] knew little or nothing about” (LeCain, 144). In other words, the implementers of technology genuinely wished to solve environmental destruction and better mankind, yet the nature of their highly complicated task was certain to provoke consequences farther down the trophic cascade. For example, in Ducktown the successful remediation of sulfur dioxide associated with mining eventually led to water eutrophication associated with agriculture. (LeCain, 142). Those responsible for tech-fixes are not uncaring, but rather understandably focused on their narrow ideas of environmental solutions. LeCain also addresses the delaying techno-fix through his Anaconda arsenic example. He claims that such solutions give the illusion of success in the short term, yet resurface in the future, often in an exaggerated form (LeCain, 149).

Several past technological-fixes have unfortunately maintained the mining industry’s continued annihilation of natural ecosystems. But just as unfortunate is the fact that humans need metals and likely will in perpetuity. I agree with LeCain’s statement that never mining specific ores in the first place “may not have been a realistic option” (LeCain, 151). The world’s economy and geopolitics are built on metal and have been for centuries. And safely extracting this material from a such a complicated planet of biological and physical systems requires more insights than those of scientists and engineers. We need ecologists, humanists, and everyone in-between to craft interdisciplinary frameworks for more sustainable mining practices. Odds are humans won’t stop pillaging the ground. But perhaps we can turn the narrow techno-illogical fixes of the past into a broader techno-logical solution of the future.


3 thoughts on “Techno-illogical Fixes”

  1. Hi Ben! I really enjoyed reading your post. It’s insightful and well written. I really enjoyed your specific mentions of Ducktown, and your evaluation of LeCain’s views of the technological fix. I’m also going to give you bonus points for mentioning the trophic cascade. I also enjoyed that you didn’t just attack the creators of technological fixes, instead you expressed that they usually have good intentions, and I found that refreshing that you brought up that the creators of techno-fixes had good intentions. I also enjoyed your second paragraph because it ties in ideas we discussed in class with adding “socio” to words to illustrate the importance of including a plethora of fields in order to solve problems. Overall, really great post, that explained the reading very well.

  2. I very dearly hope that the engineers behind many of the techno-fixes of the past truly wished to solve environmental damages that the mining industry was creating. However, sometimes I find it hard to believe that they do feel this way. Though I haven’t done much research further into these fixes and how the engineers got to the solutions they went with, I feel that if they truly wanted to help protect the environment, I think they would have pushed for more permanent fixes for the companies. That being said, I also understand how pushy employers can be with their “agenda”. The owners of companies are there to make money, and especially in the past, they didn’t really care about the negative impacts that were being made. I agree with you that we have gotten to the point that we really can’t cut off mining operations as a whole, and that the industry should move forwards with trying to make less of an impact on the surrounding environment, and I hope to see techno-fixes in the future that are beneficial to not only all the people involved, but also the environment.

  3. Wonderful summary of LeCain’s points and the implications of the various types of technological fixes! I also hope for a future of a more interdisciplinary approach toward techno fixes and or actual technological solutions, however I fear the feasibility of this and the likelihood of this collaboration ever coming into fruition. My fear has nothing to do with the ability for disciplines to come together and come up with never before thought of solutions, however, I fear the push back of industrial corporations (who greatly influence politics and many other aspects of society) as they fear the costs for them of these solutions whether they be monetary, reputation, production or any other type of cost. Unfortunately, as we have discussed multiple times in class, those in power will always strive to stay in power, regardless of the impact on those below them, so why should corporations focus on an overall solution?

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