Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Self-Repair Manifesto and proxies

I have written a few times (here, here and here) on the notion of proxies, i.e. how we manage to have other people do for us many of the things that either we should know to do ourselves (What does it take to grow the food we eat? What does it take to mend a torn shirt?), or how we manage to have other people take care of things in such a way that we lose sensitivity to them (Where does our trash go? What happens to it?). What ends up happening is that we lose control over things that should be under our control, because the people and entities we give proxies to (many times) don't make decisions for our (and our planet's) well-being. They make decisions for their well-being (Who thought it would be a good idea to plant monocultures? Why can't we stop other people's trash coming into our backyards?). It is time to take back these proxies, so that we can live knowing confidently that no carcinogenic chemicals are applied to our foods and that no e-waste has to dealt with by poor people.

One way of doing this is knowing how to fix things ourselves. Indeed, if we know how to fix things, we don't have to rely on mechanics and companies to do the jobs for us, with at times exorbitant costs that make it cheaper (monetarily) in some sense to buy a new item. Arnab introduced me to the Self-Repair Manifesto, which is a free repair manual anyone can edit. There are instructions on how to repair computers, game consoles, phones, vehicles, cameras, and household appliances. Here is what the website says:
  • Repair is better than recycling - making our things last longer is both more efficient and more cost-effective than mining them from raw materials.
  • Repair saves the planet - Earth has limited resources and we can't run a linear manufacturing process forever. The best way to be efficient is to reuse what we already have!
  • Repair saves you money - fixing things is often free, and usually cheaper than replacing them. Doing the repair yourself saves you serious dough.
  • Repair teaches engineering - the best way to find out how something works is to take it apart.
  • If you can't fix it, you don't own it - repair connects people with devices, creating bonds that transcend consumption. Self-repair is sustainable.
The point of this Manifesto is self-empowerment and encouragement. We can do things ourselves, avoiding waste and trash and environmental and social harm. Furthermore, as the last bullet item states, investing in something connects you to it, and makes it less likely that you will trash something, which may increase in value to you the more you invest in it. (Lia will be writing more about this soon - objects, sentimentality and trash.) 

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