Newton’s Third Law

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When everybody wins, nature loses. In a nutshell, that is Timothy LeCain’s argument. People have often proposed technological fixes for the environment, only to be deterred by past experience. LeCain defines the three types of techno-fixes as follows: transformational, relocational, and delaying, with most occurrences being a combination of the types. In regards to pollution and mining, the techno-fix seems to be, “moving one environmental sink to another” (LeCain, 137). No matter how much advancement we make, it seems like it is never enough to come up with a solid solution. A techno-fix may solve a solution in one case, but may also cause problems in other cases. Looking at Ducktown District, the place contained an abundance of copper. The only problem was that to mine the copper ore, miners had to use a technique called “heap roasting.” This technique consequentially killed the beautiful land and surrounding area with sulfur dioxide gas that was created in the smelting process. To “fix” the issue meant unknowingly applying the transformational and relocational techno-fixes. Transforming the sulfur dioxide into sulfuric acid which could be used for fertilizing. While this may seem like a win-win situation, all it did was keep the land from dying and instead, poisoned the rivers and waterways near farmlands. Alongside this case, was the case of arsenic pollution and the Anaconda Company of Montana. A company that owned the town of Anaconda, built “the worlds largest and most efficient copper smelter in the world” (LeCain, 144). Firstly, a question of morality, was the company did not bother about emissions, but rather relied on isolation and ownership of the town Anaconda in regards to legal issues. The smelter prompted many farmers to come forth, as cattle and livestock deaths seemed to be increasing. The smelter shutdown in 1980, but it was not until 1987 that locals were tested to have very high levels of arsenic in their urine. The case showed all three techno-fixes being involved, with an emphasis on the third, delaying.

It is important to remember that not all solutions actually solve a problem. They may solve the instance, but what about what comes after? Obviously, copper is important. It is used in just about everything technological; coins, electrical generators, computer boards, radios, and TVs all contain copper wiring within them. Some things can go without copper sure, but copper contains many traits that would be difficult to replace with the resources we have(conductivity, heat, etc…). Looking for alternatives is crucial, but so is looking for solutions while reminding ourselves that not all technological fixes are truly genuine. And perhaps the only solution is to fix the immediate and secondary simultaneously, so long as we are comfortable living in such a cycle.




1 thought on “Newton’s Third Law”

  1. You have a good discussion of LeCain’s article. I agree that we never seem to come up with a solid solution, despite our technological advancements. I think this is the result of formulating long-term fixes with short-term technology. It seems as though we look at the past wondering why they chose to solve problems the way they did when we now have the technology that would do a better job of it. Our techno-fixes are not designed and employed with change in mind, be it within technology, science, and/or the environment. I like that you pointed out how we are not always solving the problem. They just transform it, relocate it, or delay it. I don’t know how much we can do looking for alternatives. I am not saying we should be comfortable with this cycle, we shouldn’t, we just seem to get stuck in this cycle not matter what fix we try to employ.

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