The Paw Print

Planned Obsolescence

Jay Park, Web Editor in Chief

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   To live is to consume. Our habitual greed has been an advantageous evolutionary trait. It has allowed us to exceed our limits and pursue goals that were originally far beyond our reach and has turned us into a thriving species. Yet in an abundant world of luxury products, what is too much materialism? Where do we draw the line?

   The biggest offender of luxury goods is technology. Providing convenient and entertaining products to our daily lives, it has become a quintessential aspect of any first world society. Daily usage iPhones, television and computers have cemented themselves as a major part of our lives. But high-tech consumerism brings about little-known consequences, ones that eat away at our environment. It is our duty as consumers and citizens of Earth to, at the very least, consider our ecological footprint.

   It is difficult to blame people when the culture we live in fundamentally forces us to waste. We live in a plastic world, filled with disposable, slow-perishing synthetic materials. Constantly upgrading old technology for the new has become the norm. In fact, the US government has researched and proved that major tech companies like Apple reinforce this change by intentionally slowing down older generations. They also design their products in a particularly fragile manner to encourage sales from breakage. This can be equally transposed to Androids as they share similar life spans with iPhones.

   Companies do all they can to ensure that demand is always high. It makes it difficult for us to stop, or at least slow down on, purchasing new goods. Continuing the example about Apple, they annually release a slew of expensive new models. They seem to promise revolutionary flashy additions and improvements, but, truth be told, they aren’t worthy of a brand new phone. It comes to no surprise that these are highly overpriced compared to their production prices, but that is an issue I will delve into another day.

 

   This incredibly unrestrained sale of high technology is taking a toll on the environment. Recently, the International Energy Agency declared that our network-connected gadgets cost 15 percent of residential electricity worldwide. It will rise to a whopping 45 percent by 2030 by this pattern. Forget cars — these electronic devices are increasing pollution and fast depleting our finite supply of fossil fuel.

   The electronic waste we produce sums up to a total of 50 million tons. Included in this stunning figure are the toxic materials embedded in technology that are incorrectly handled and ignored when disposed. Where is this trash thrown away, you ask? The cheapest solution for countries is Latin America and China, where approximately 80 percent of all global disposed technology goes.

   These thrown out products do not simply vanish into thin air, either. They are “managed” by a poorly paid workforce, who are exposed to the toxicity of the chemicals and the poisonous heavy metals in the objects. They suffer from a lifetime of debilitating health issues because of this. They must also deal with the reality of their land being permanently blighted by our waste that we so frivolously throw away.

   For those who do not feel sympathy, take note of this. We may feel unaffected and invincible because we are so distant, but it will be on our doorstep eventually, and in a much worse condition if we fail to act now. It is a global issue that will undoubtedly haunt us in no less than a decade as waste trends indicate.

   So is it worth it to purchase that new phone to replace last year’s? Could you possibly try harder to take better care of your smartphone so that it lasts longer? Do whatever you want, but remember that this storm of waste looms over our heads, and the consequences will account for our every action. Be conscious, consider the environment, as the generation that will bear the brunt of the storm’s impact will be ours.

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Planned Obsolescence