There is no Techno-Fix


The LeCain reading addresses three types of technological fixes which seem to sum up the issues that scientists and engineers face when trying to implement cleaner practices: transformational, relocational and delayed techno-fixes. In his first cast study LeCain uses the example of Ducktown smelters in the Smoky Mountains. Smoke as a byproduct of the smelting process emitting toxic sulfur dioxide gas transforming the surrounding environment into a “barren wasteland” (LeCain 140). The techno fix changed the sulfur dioxide into sulfuric acid used to manufacture super sulfide fertilizer which employed transformational and relocational techno-fixes. This fertilizer made its way to many fields across the US eventually traveling as runoff into water systems, the result: growth of oxygen consuming red algae choking off other aquatic life. LeCain notes as a result of this problematic tecno-fix that, “it is clearly a mistake to consider the developers of the Ducktown techno-fix as simply unconcerned or ignorant about environmental matters” (LeCain 144). LeCain makes the argument that while the scientists and engineers who research and help implement these technological fixes may truly have concern for not harming the environment, these fixes will almost always only transform, relocate, or delay the issue. It is extremely difficult to truly reverse the damages of activity that is intrinsically harmful to the environment.


I think it is quite obvious that our world as we know it is built at the cost of materials such as copper. We continue the use these materials because they meet our needs as consumers and essentially leeches of the environment. As long as we do not wish to give up any comforts and “needs”, I believe it will be incredibly difficult to slow down the production and consumption of these materials. This being said, I agree very much with LeCain’s argument that there is no way to actually reverse the damage, only to push it down stream as humans love to do. The reading makes me think of the talk on Thursday regarding biocement techno-fixes, specifically the dams. While yes it might be beneficial to prevent flooding by sealing cracks, the fish are still obstructed from reaching their spawning grounds causing huge ecological damage.