We’ve all, at some time or another, rolled our eyes at our elders as they claim in dismay that “things just aren’t made to last the way they used to”. Clutching on to the same moth ridden coat they’ve worn since the 40s, or fervently plodding down the road at 20mph in their trusty Morris minors; our grandparents are the kings and queens of frugal living. Their dusty and unchanging homes are living museums of the “golden Years”; where purchases were made for longevity, and are generously cared for as though they were the last of their kind left on Earth.
Meanwhile, pushing forward in the name of progression and Modernisation, us ‘youngsters’ of the past two decades have passionately and successfully developed a material culture; literally transforming the face of our planet. For every new car we buy, phone we upgrade or wardrobe we redress, billions of tonnes of landfill are backfilling to the extent of near tipping point. Even the ever increasing trend to be ethical, natural or sustainable is creating its own special brand of materialism.
“Fashion of any sort is, by definition, deeply committed to built-in obsolescence. Last year’s skirts, for example, are designed to be replaced by this year’s new models.” Economist
But now we too are complaining about the concept of Planned Obsolescence; in which products are intentionally made not to last, in order to make room for newer models. Almost everything we buy now comes with a relatively short lifespan; either due to its physical durability to perform its intentional purpose, or through societal pressures to remain on the ball with current trends and technologies.
And as these technologies progress at a speed which demands constant upgrading and remodelling, we are literally small, excitable fish fighting over bait, as big corporates dangle hooks loaded with shiny, new and short living bait. We are at the mercy of fashion, fads and – despite calling ourselves individuals – keeping up with our fellow consumers.
In our ignorance and greed for the new, we are the sole creators of our materialistic world. We moan and groan about the increase in advertising, as it encroaches on our so called ‘social networks’, and we make bold accusations about the integrity of manufacturers, whose products are constantly being upgraded to be ‘better and more efficient than before’. Yet, despite this, we still continue to buy the new. We don’t just actively participate in the materialistic world; our purchases literally create the world we live in. Supply and demand, it’s as simple as that.
So how do we really fight this so called ‘Planned Obsolescence’, and ensure that things do indeed last the way our grandparents reminisced they once used to?
One of the most famous and inspiring quotes encourages us to “be the change we wish to see in the world”. Therefore, if we want the things we buy to last, and we want to help fight the effects of environmental issues – such as climate change, ocean pollution and deforestation – it is us, the consumer, who has the power to challenge Planned Obsolescence.