HST 207 – Science and Technology in World History
Mary Hill Young
LeCain’s article is predicated primarily upon the supposition that the mining and environmental engineers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were not willfully destroying the environment but rather, operating within a very strictly defined sphere of their own knowledge and expertise. He argues that there was little outside reference for what they were doing, “Particularly significant in this regard are the engineers and scientists who most often not only developed the techno-fixes, but also created the basic criteria for evaluating their effectiveness.”(LeCain, When Everybody Wins Does the Environment Lose?, 138)
LeCain specifies three tactics used by the body of engineers and scientists to combat the first wave of environmental impacts: The Transformative Techno-Fix, The Relocation Techno-Fix, and the Delaying Techno-Fix. He posits that these three tactics as those used by the Tennessee Copper Company, at Ducktown, in 1908, and again at Anaconda, in 1907. In both of these instances the mining companies, under pressure from the federal government, adopted technological solutions for their environmental damage problems. However, in both of these instances the solution to the problem was more a matter of first transmuting the offending environmental factor, then transporting it to another economically advantageous industry or location, and finally delaying its inevitable reentry into the environment. The results of the Ducktown and Anaconda environmental crises went largely disregarded, insofar as they were “secondary environmental effects.”(LeCain, When Everybody Wins Does the Environment Lose?, 142)
The mining industry, even from its earliest conception, went hand in hand with environmental degradation and waste, and at no point in history has humanity considered the fallout of personal progress. Therefore is seems unlikely that the steady devolution of the environment would prompt a change in human behavior, so long as the resources mined proved to continue being the easiest and most readily accessible route to comfort and convenience.