Tuesday Mar 12, 2013
Planned obsolescence is a seemingly inescapable facet of life under American capitalism. Ever since light bulb manufacturers first conspired to limit their products’ lifespan, we’ve been buying products designed to have limited lifespans and, for the most part, eating it up. Never before, however, have we seen such a fast turnover rate of high-tech consumer goods, many of which are still perfectly functional and only made “obsolete” by artificial standards – standards that serve only to improve already bloated corporate bottom lines. The negative impact this aspect of our culture has on our wallets is matched only by the murderous effect it has on the planet’s ecology: electronic waste is one of the fastest-growing and least easily recycled forms of waste, and the resource-intensive strip-mining of increasingly scarce rare-earth minerals in far-off locations is exacting a devastating toll on far-flung locations around the world. Add to this equation the enormous amount of petroleum, coal, and heavy metals used directly and indirectly in the production of these largely unnecessary goods, and the trend toward greater and greater consumption of the latest high-tech gadgets is an ominous sign for our planet’s future.