A Tragic Inevitability

LeCain realized the consistent potential for harm from toxic waste, even when it was seemingly disposed of or repurposed. In Ducktown, Tennessee, mining produced substantial amounts of arsenic; realizing a buildup of this material would be extremely harmful to both the environment and the communities within it, the industry chose to collect it and find a way to repurpose it. Thus, the issue of arsenic was converted into a solution which actually benefited the agricultural economy through its usage in fertilizers. While this characterized as a technological fix, LeCain further argued its classification as a relocational and delaying solve; the arsenic, while utilized and distributed, still entered the ecosystems, and only brought damage down the line. Even in cases where the side-effects of a mining operation are fully realized and accounted for, the results remain the same: toxic waste seeps into the environment. Though not immediate, the negative impacts of industrial growth eventually reach the surrounding ecosystems. LeCain believed “all three types of techno-fixes ultimately resulted in other environmental problems” (LeCain 139).


To entirely end the mining industry for its consequences would be rash, but continuing seems only more challenging when one takes into account the final cost. I believe we do need resources like copper and others like it, but our reliance should not extend beyond a point where the damage we create is irreparable. Currently there is little hope for a true “technological fix,” and some—like LeCain—argue such a fix will never come. This opinion should be taken with balance, though, as considering the massive amount of jobs and other economies rely on the foundation of mining. LeCain’s argument is entirely valid in its presentation of the dangers of mining, but even with these dangers we must also be practical in realizing how far we have come in our societal development with a major supporting pillar of industrial support. Removing this would have extensive ramifications in human civilizations world-wide. Continuing to limit the harm we create, and taking every opportunity to further the field of ecosystem repair, maybe someday a balance can be found between our thirst for technological growth, and the earth’s inability to handle such fast-paced development.

1 thought on “A Tragic Inevitability”

  1. Hello Heather. I can’t really argue with anything in your post since I agree with all your points. Indeed, it would be rash to get rid of mines entirely. LeCain seems quite pessimistic about technological fixes, and I honestly can’t blame him. I’m not exactly the most enthusiastic person myself, especially about “human progress”. Still, I keep coming back to the idea that maybe, just maybe, there is a final solution to environmental problems that doesn’t involve exterminating the human race. If such a thing exists, I imagine it’ll come from nature rather than us, though I haven’t the slightest idea what that might be. For example, could there be a renewable material that has the same conductivity as copper? The hopeful side of me is holding out, but at the same time, I know that this theoretical substance could present problems of its own. This far into the course, I think I’d be a fool not to consider that.

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