My weed whacker just died in an acrid cloud of smoke. I had to toss it in the trash, and it hurts me to throw stuff in the trash. Too much of our stuff is built in such a way as to be unrepairable. No doubt it was cheap to build, in some some nameless Chinese factory. Cheap labor, combined with lax environmental regulations, along with inexpensive shipping all add up to low priced consumer goods. Way too much of it is crap.
To be fair, that’s what society demands. How many people lack even basic tools, never mind the skills to use them? It only takes one generation of a disposable society and the skills become rare. There is little demand for products that can be fixed. If nobody is repairing things, then there is no market in spare parts. It’s a vicious circle.
The disposable society is a fluke -the combination of cheap energy low cost labor doesn’t happen all that often or for very long. Workers in China, like workers everywhere, want a decent wage. Energy isn’t at cheap as it once was. The end of this economic model is in sight.
Replacing something won’t be cheap and easy anymore. The fix it guy or gal, will be back in style. Too bad that they’ll be called upon to fix cheap stuff never meant to be fixed. A certain amount of cannibalization of parts can keep some stuff going. I’ll bet older stuff, gathering dust in attics and garages, will be pressed back into service. How often are things replaced because they go out of style? Maybe they work fine, but lack some new whiz bang feature. Better an old tool that does the basic work than a new snazzy device that breaks and can’t be fixed.
It’s possible that if there is any manufacturing going on in the future, it’ll be of tools and machines that can be repaired. Stuff will have to last again. Expensive energy and materials require the best use of both. There’s no sense in using limited resources to build throw away junk.
Since I feel this way, you are probably wondering how I ended up with a cheap Chinese weed whacker in the first place? It was given to me by someone who bought a better one and didn’t want to throw out something that still worked. At least all the useful work was gotten out of in. Now I’ll have to dig out my old human powered trimmers from out of the basement and sharpen them up.
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