Technofixes Shouldn’t Create New Problems

In Timothy LeCain’s essay The Technological Fix he discusses the environmental problems and technofixes that went into the copper mining projects in Ducktown, Tennessee and Butte, Montana. In his argument he explains how there are three main types of technofixes which are the transformational technofix, the relocational technofix and the delaying technofix. The transformational technofix is solving the problem by changing the way of operating to make it less harmful. In example as LeCain explains of page 140 engineers from the Tennessee Copper company designed a process of transforming the sulfur dioxide gas that was being released and killing the vegetation around the Ducktown copper mine into Sulfuric Acid which wouldn’t have as devastating an effect on the surrounding area. This Sulfuric Acid then was transformed into a superphosphate fertilizer and distributed across the United States and other nations. LeCain explains of page 141 that this would be classified as a relocational technofix as the problem was moved from the site. Lastly, Tim LeCain explains the delaying technofix as the approach of pushing back finding a real solution to environmental pollution in order to maintain profit margins. His example on page 148 covers the Anaconda company’s solution to high levels of Arsenic in the air downwind of their smelter. Instead of investing in a real long-term solution they opted to essentially package it in different ways such as a pesticide, fertilizer and timber preservative. Arsenic never breaks down and there for the Anaconda company’s solution will forever continue to impact the environment above ground. On top of this the company left behind 250,000 cubic yards of dust from the smelter smoke on site. It seems that they had no real intention of solving this issue.  

Mining for resources such as copper and other minerals has proven to be extremely destructive and regretful in many instances in the past. Yet, some of the world’s most impactful inventions wouldn’t be in use if it was not for the extraction of these minerals. The laptop that I am currently typing on for instance contains many precious metals and it is something that I and I am sure many others truly enjoy having! That’s why I think we do need to continue to find a way to obtain minerals such as copper. But in order to justify extracting these resources I believe that mining practices have to continue to become more environmentally cautious and regulated. The environmental impact on the American west from mining in the late 19th century until the late 20th century is something that cannot be repeated, therefor, modern mining will have to reflect those values and find innovative ways to avoid hurting the ecosystems surrounding these mines and smelters. I find LeCain makes a great argument that we must stay cautious of technofixes and that we must better understand what a “true” solution is. No longer can technofixes lead to other issues now they have to be complete fixes.