Pollution and the Technological Era

LeCain describes the three primary types of techno-fixes as transformational, relocational, and delaying (LeCain p. 138).  This fixes have historically brought temporary solutions that have resulted in a pessimistic view of technological fixes.  Examples of this include the transformation of sulfur dioxide gas into sulfuric acid fertilizer and the transformation of arsenic into pesticides and timber preservatives that only had a temporary effect and eventually polluted local creeks, rivers, and groundwater (LeCain p.148). As a result, the introduction of technological fixes only rationalized the actions of the mining and smelting industry to further exploit ore containing high concentrations of sulfur and arsenic as well as resulting in an underestimation of the environmental costs of mining and smelting operations (p. 150).

Despite the environmental consequences of previous technological fixes, LeCain states that the failures of the past can be learned from to better understand what constitutes a true solution (LeCain p. 150).  For example, if the underground passages of past mining operations did not flood and if farmers did not over-fertilized crops with sulfur then the transformational fixes of the past may have been true technological fixes and the hazardous byproducts of mining and smelting operations would have successfully returned to the underground.  With the lessons learned from past attempts at an technological fix, LeCain suggests it is possible to determine if a true permanent technological fix exists.  After all, much of science has progressed only after countless numbers of failed attempts. However, due to the unpredictable nature of technological fixes it can be difficult to track the movement of environmental pollutants since the products of technological fixes are subject to much variation due to delaying effects, unexpected pollution in seemingly unrelated environments, and further variation due to the use and misuse of the product itself. Thus it becomes nearly impossible to determine if a technological fix exists barring an expensive expedition to ship our environmental problems into our ever expanding universe. In the evolving technological era, minerals such as copper may be an irreplaceable part of the current economy, however, important considerations must be made of nature’s natural ability to restore itself otherwise future generations will soon be subject to an era of irreversible pollution.