Monday, September 6, 2010

Some more thoughts on the definition of the problem

In my last post, I talked about the ever-growing amount of "e-waste" being shipped overseas. I can attribute this growing amount of e-waste to a few things:

1) Electronics are intentionally made to not last more than a couple of years.
2) Everything is being "upgraded" - you might be perfectly happy to use your old computer (which works well), but other people, companies, organisations, etc. use new versions of various software that require newer versions of hardware to process. In the end, you have to "upgrade" if you want to be a part of the majority of society.
3) There is a social pressure for people, especially the young, to have newer versions of perfect functional products, take for example the new iPhone.
4) We think that what is new is better than what is old, not only from a functional standpoint, but also from the standpoint of materials, efficiency and "environment."

The fourth point is what I would like to elaborate on in this post. I previously have elaborated on what is embodied in products that we have already. When we purchase something, we have agreed to all that has gone on to make that product (whether we like to think about it or not), including the societal, cultural, ecological and economic impacts. Materials are permanently extracted, from the earth, and tons of energy and freshwater are used to morph and shape these elements and compounds into something "useful" and "usable." When we buy something "more efficient," you also agree to all that has gone on to make that product. There is a certain amount of "life" that you purchase, and it is up to us to make sure we make full use of the products while they still function. I like to take the example of buying a new Toyota Prius as opposed to buying an older, used car. This article from Wired makes it very clear - you will be doing less harm to the environment by either keeping your old car, or buying another used car, than by purchasing a new Prius. Here is another article to think about...

In the end, it is up to us to decide whether to buy into the fads, fashions and branding. But hopefully we can make our decisions using some common sense and thoughtfulness.

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