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planned obsolescence

Can a Just Energy Transition Occur Under Capitalism?

You can’t fix what’s meant to be broken

By D'Arcy Briggs - Spring, April 22, 2021

Regarding the battle against climate change, there is a common liberal argument that says we simply need an improvement in technology, or to push market investments to companies already producing this kind of tech. We’re seeing a boom in renewable energy investment, with many groups clamoring to add these companies to their portfolios. But this push towards new technologies doesn’t exist in an economic vacuum. They are directly informed by the labour processes which create them. No matter how many wind farms or electric cars we create, capitalism will necessarily find a way to destroy us.

Because capitalism is in a constant state of over-production, there is a drive to replace old goods with new ones. If we were happy with the amount and quality of products we fill our lives with, and if we could replace them among our own means, consumer capitalism wouldn’t be able to exist. I think this is pretty self evident and we can easily relate. We are constantly bombarded with ads for new products: phones with better cameras, computers with faster processors, cars with stronger engines, etc. Capitalism can’t function in a world with clean, ‘green,’ energy. It can’t function in a world where the working class are given the tools to function and thrive. Simply put, you can’t fix what’s meant to be broken.

Designed to fail … and the Solutions

By Nick Meynen - EJOLT, October 15, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

While violent conflicts over rare metals used in our phones and laptops continue and e-waste keeps piling up, engineers break their heads over new ways to ensure that products die quicker.

It takes 244 kg of fossil fuel, 21,8 kg of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture one computer and monitor. Carsten Wachholz, product policy officer from the European Environmental Bureau: “To offset the energy consumed to manufacture a laptop, it must be used for more than 20 years, even with a 20-30% efficiency improvement rate over that time”. The opposite is happening: computers made in 2010 have a 10% shorter lifespan than those made in 2000[1]. The same goes up for cell phones, iPods and so on. Unsurprisingly, the amount of e-waste created in the world keeps rising exponentially, to over 50 million tons of e-waste, annually.

The idea of planned obsolescence started with light bulbs, nylon socks and cars but it has now moved to all electronic devices, textbooks, washing machines, microwaves, software and almost every product that can possibly break or become ‘old-fashioned’. Engineers are asked to make sure that things go to the dump faster so you need to buy a new one quicker. This makes lots of money for the companies, but it has some nasty side-effects: increasing material and energy consumption on a planet with shrinking stocks and increasing waste. These are major drivers behind environmental injustices, which we have carefully mapped over the last three years of research. So let’s take a closer look at this source of so many evils and on how to stop it.

The Fine Print I:

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The Fine Print II:

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