In order for humans to benefit, the environment must suffer in a zero-sum exchange, or at least that’s what history might leave us to believe. Lecain lists three types of techno-fixes: transformational, relocational, and delaying (Lecain, 138). Lecain argues that the necessity and use of techno-fixes are a nuanced issue, and that the failure to ‘properly’ fix a fault or damaging factor to the environment is not a result of cold exploitation but often simply limitation of technology and knowledge, which improves over time. He points out that in modern day, we have become much better and more conscious in preserving our environment, probably because of our advancements.
In Ducktown, damage from sulfuric compounds from mining led to the construction of plants that would neutralize the byproduct and turn it into something useful. There still were secondary effects on the environment (Lecain 141-143). Lecain points out that the issues faced in this scenario were from simply lack of scientific knowledge and inability to see far into the future, and that the problems were fixed or mitigated as time went on.
The Anaconda Smelter is another case where arsenic fumes were killing livestock and destroying vegetation. After a lawsuit, it was willing to work with an investigative commission to assess the problem and to find a way to mitigate it. When it was found that it had the ability to capture arsenic and that arsenic was valuable in other industries, systems were put into place in an attempt to try and capture all of it (Lecain 146-147). The arsenic was transformed into a pesticide, relocated out of the area as it was sold as a product, but the company unfortunately did not get all of it, some arsenic had built up in the form of arsenic dust, making this a delaying action. Once again Lecain argues that it was a lack of understanding and tech.
I think we still need to mine, and should mine. Our ability to perfect it is not 100% there yet, but I doubt that humanity is really as selfish, cold and indifferent as many claim it to be, and for the time being, these resources are needed to sustain our infrastructure. We need to find better ways of getting them or even better, clean alternatives, but to dismiss or take for granted the inventions and technology they allow us to have in everyday life is a bit too far. That said, sustainability is absolutely important and key in the long run, and Earth has a finite amount of resources. Perhaps if we started mining asteroids in the coming centuries to get what we need, that could be an easy solution… assuming that there’s no catastrophic negative environmental effects from stripping a space rock hundreds of thousands of kilometers away from Earth.