The more I learn…

// Posted by on 06/11/2015 (1:40 PM)

I always wondered why, with the technology available today, we do not have tires made out of material that last more than a few thousand miles or that were puncture proof.  Now I know – deliberate and planned obsolescence in the forms of psychological (fashion or convenience driven) and technological (must have the latest and the greatest).  I return to the “being dragged around like drunken soldiers” analogy for effect. Why can’t bankers, advertisers, business analyst, communication theorists, economist, etc. use their powers for good?  

Customer demand is the driver and wherever we spend our money is what the new focus becomes.  Like in the story “The Death of Ivan Ilych” by Leo Tolstoy our priorities are focused in the wrong place and it is slowing killing us.  I always understood that we are a wasteful country, especially when it comes to food and I am guilty of that myself.  I drive past a country store that closed months ago.  It has a huge fence around it, with big locks to keep people out.  When you look in the window, the shelves are still full of food!  With all the starving people in Richmond, this should not be happening. 

We are being controlled by companies with elaborate marketing organizations who build products that are not intended to last and these products have a ‘single use’ purpose.  The packaging is changed to entice children and adults to buy specific products but originally they focused on specific segments of the population.  As I move through the article which does a great job describing the issues, I can visualize how American’s got into this mess. 

Facts documented in the article that is very eye opening is that the amount of waste we produce.  The fact that consumers buy the next best thing even though what they have is still working.  Seems only a small amount of the electronic waste in the form of computers, TV’s, or cell phones is being recycled.  Also, the biological toxicity mentioned of the above the ground waste is very disturbing, and for some of the items listed I have no idea what it is doing to our culture.  The more advanced Silicon Valley becomes, the more e-waste is produced.  They need to come up with a solution and quickly.   It is interesting that the preventative measures taken by European Union have been more successful than those taken by United States NEPSI. The really sad thing is that we are really leaving a ginormous mess for future generations to have to deal with. 

The few ‘go green’ steps that we as consumers take like bringing reusable totes to stores instead of using paper or plastic bags being offered, or shopping at big box stores who do not offer bags or refilling water bottles versus buying bottled water is just a drop in the bucket.  I can only hope that the fact that this article is dated back in 2006 that we have made great advancements since its creation.   And that we, as a country, have come up with a more long lasting solution than shipping this waste to countries like “China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and other economically desperate countries or reducing the toxicity of the waste” which is probably much more dangerous than being reported (P. 3).  Our inefficiencies are spilling over into other cultures and this makes the problem global.

We need to stop ‘wasting’ time blaming each other and get on with a real solution.  


Categories: Uncategorized


Rosatelli said...

Hi Shirley,

I think a lot of this comes back to finger pointing. Who is responsible for the waste? Is it the consumers? The manufacturers? The government? Who is responsible for regulating the laws that are already in place? I just mentioned to Kaitlyn that this comes back to the imbrication of the digital and non digital that Sassen was talking about. While we have all come into the digital age together, many of us are experiencing that digital age differently. These various realities of what the digital is–a factory in China, a new Apple Store in Richmond, or a river in Africa, tells the picture much more honestly than many would like it be understood. The life cycle of a device, or the materiality of our web, is much more involved than what what we even read today. The mining for the rare metals is another story all together. (I didn’t want to overwhelm you all!).

// 06/12/2015 at 2:52 pm

Kaitlyn said...

I agree that we need to get the ball rolling with cleaning up the problems of e waste. I think that it is crazy that we started the semester reading about where the Internet came from and the technologies that go along with it and now we see what is happening to the original electronics. Like you said we are not recycling enough. I hope that since this article is dated that maybe things have changed. I have a feeling though that there are still people shipping out these products because it is low cost and an easier way of disposal for them.

// 06/12/2015 at 8:15 pm

Ginger said...


I love your opening paragraph! You and those drunken sailor! I can’t remember which sitcom it was on, it may have been Designing Women, but they asked a similar question. You can send men to the moon, but you can’t make a pair of pantyhose that won’t run! I work in rock quarry so there are many opportunities for me to have a nick in my windshield. Same question, they can send people to the moon but they can’t make a windshield that can survive being hit by a rock falling off of a truck? It is all about the money.

I have told everyone in my lab about what we are learning in this class. There are only 4 of us, but still! I have even shared the articles from class with them. We have had some really good conversations about Bluffdale, e-waste, and Snowden. Especially Snowden. I think that is what we can do to combat this, we have to raise awareness. We are a small class, there is just the 10 of us, but if we each tell a few people then who knows what can happen.

I wonder if we could organize an recycling event at school for e-waste or find someone to donate our used phones and other electronics to.

// 06/13/2015 at 9:14 pm

Lois said...

Hi Shirley,

I feel the same way as you. Our nation is adding to the problem by shipping off our waste to other countries – that is frightening! We send money and medical assistance to third world countries and waste products to others – we help in one area and destroy in another. That makes zero sense to me.

We’ve got to develop a solution for e-waste and how to dispose of it properly. I don’t see consumer spending habits changing, so the priority is creating solutions on how to eliminate waste properly so there are no health hazards created. And, to stop shipping hazardous materials to other counties.


// 06/14/2015 at 2:31 pm