More Answers, More Problems

According to LeCain, there are three types of technological fixes, the transformative techno-fix, relocational techno fix, and the delaying techno-fix. In both the Ducktown and Washoe complex studies, Lecain found that two of the techno fixes were used to try and solve environmental issues that were happening because of mining. First of all, the Ducktown smelters were creating so much pollution that plant life in the surrounding area had all been killed by the dangerous amounts of sulfur dioxide gas. LeCain states, “Under pressure from the uncompromising demand to either clean up or shut down, in 1908 the Tennessee Copper Company engineers and chemist developed the seemingly perfect techno-fix: a recovery system that converted the sulfur dioxide gas into sulfuric acid “(LeCain 140). This is what Lecain calls a transformative fix, because it took out most of the toxic gas from the air solving the problem. However, this transformative fix also created a relocational fix. All the sulfuric acid that was being produced by the smelters could be sold to farmers all over the country that needed it for fertilizer, but farmers started to over use the fertilizer and sulfuric acid began to leak into waterways, creating a new problem. At the Washoe complex, the same thing happened. The smelters were creating deadly arsenic air pollutants, so engineers came in a found a way to transform the arsenic into pesticides for cotton farms in the south, using both the transformative and relocational techno-fixes. The Washoe complex also pressure treated all of the wood that held up the mines with arsenic so it would last in hot and humid weather. This is where the delayed fix comes in. The treated wood underground caused no problems at first, but after the mine closed and water began to fill up back up, the water became contaminated because of the treated wood (Lecain 149). LeCain argues that techno-fixes do help the environment, but usually end up causing damage to it in other places. This does not stop him from saying that we can find a better answer that involves all aspects and outcomes of the problem we are trying to solve.


I believe we do need copper and other materials. Like Justin Nobel said in “Postcards from the Edge”, “in a single year, Americans consume so much copper that were it all hammered into a common copper wire, that wire would wrap around the earth 2,250 times, or go to Mars and almost back”. These materials are a necessity for future technological advancement. I think LeCain is right, “simply avoiding certain ores or not mining or smelting at all may not have been a realistic option”(Lecain 151). There has to be a better answer than the technological fixes of twentieth century engineers.