Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Evan Conley H1 - Global Resource Depletion post 2 of 3
In my last post, I explained the issue of overconsumption and its role in global resource depletion, as well as the links between consumption and population. Here, I’ll go into some of the factors feeding into the growth of this issue.
One great contributor to the waste of resources is planned obsolescence, a natural side effect of a system governed by the pursuit of wealth. Planned obsolescence occurs when a company purposely produces a product that will not last a lifetime. Though the materials to manufacture products that will continue to function properly for decades do exist and are available, it is far more profitable for a company to create products that will need to be replaced with new products after a set amount of time. On one hand, this is an obvious waste of resources. However, from the perspective of the producers, this is the only way for their business to thrive. If products of high quality were produced, there would eventually be no need for consumers to buy any more of the company’s product, and the company would go out of business. For this reason, the integrity and sustainability of a system of production centered on the gain of wealth is called into question. How can we create a system of production that is both secure for the producers as well as environmentally sustainable?
A possible solution to this problem is to severely limit the amount of resources that can go into the production of certain products, as well as limit the number of releases of minutely upgraded versions of these products. A pertinent example of wasted resources can be found by looking to the company Apple. Apple has many slightly upgraded versions of their products over the course of the past 10 years, and while a great deal of ingenuity and genuine improvement has occurred, there is also a great deal of waste due to the intermittent release of these upgrades. While the technology for, say, the iPhone 2 was better than that of the iPhone 1, it is incredibly likely that the technology used in the iPhone 5 was available during the time of the production of the iPhone 3. It’s not impossible that the technology was available before that, but I’ll give Apple the benefit of the doubt because the point remains clear regardless. By limiting the amount of improvements that are released with a new product, Apple is able spread the release of the technology over the course of 3 or 4 different products, increasing the amount of money they can make from selling those products. Smartphones and computers require some rare materials to properly function, but instead of saving some of those resources for future technologies, it is being wasted on slightly upgraded versions of products in order to produce more capital gain. These resources often end up thrown into dumps, which serve as embarrassing reminders of our wasteful habits and practices.
The question is, how can we limit this waste while still preserving the freedoms of businesses and consumers? A harsh reality that we must come to terms with is that we will not be able to preserve these freedoms entirely. We will not be able to continue living life in the same manner as our parents and grandparents. For us to save the future of our planet, we must be willing to make sacrifices in our consumption. Our personal freedoms and desires cannot supersede protecting the future of the world. However, these sacrifices do not imply that we will have to give up everything that brings us joy; instead, we must simply insure that we are not wasteful, that we recycle the resources that can be reused, and that we work together in preventing others from committing the same atrocities against our planet that we are guilty of. I believe that the way to do this is through education; by explaining the gravity of this situation, and by providing information that can be used to help prevent waste, we might be able to slow down what seems to be the inevitable decline of our society.