My mobile phone has been gradually failing in recent months as a result of a piece of stupidity. I would charge it and then only be able to make a couple of phone calls before the battery gave out. At the end it would only last part of a phone call, me speaking faster and faster to try to finish the call before it ran out, rather in the way you drive faster and faster to reach a service station before petrol runs out. What’s that, whose stupidity? Well, mine I’m afraid. I was leaning over a sheep water trough one day with the phone in my top pocket when it fell, splash, into the water. Dried it off, thank goodness still working, won’t do that again. Next day, kersplash, same trough. Still working but with odd behaviour (time, for example, always half an hour behind, except daylight saving when it was one and a half hours behind), and of course the failing battery.
Anyway, got to the stage where I reluctantly (still got a Beta video player in a cupboard, still have my old hockey shirts from 1960) decided I had to get it fixed or replaced. I wasn’t optimistic about the former, and was resigned to the latter, but I was still surprised. “Can I get a new battery for this” I said. The girl took a look, rather in the way a teenager looks at a vinyl record, sneering, and said “But that’s two years old, don’t think there will be a battery for that any more”. Turned out there was, but it cost more than a new phone (go figure), so I agreed to a new phone. While I waited I looked at the batteries they did have available – every one different for every brand of phone. When I got it home I discovered the old charger wouldn’t fit the new phone, quite a different design.
Look, I know that capitalism, unfettered by any kind of regulation or public benefit is the only possible way to organise human society. Been told it over and over again, and that’s just by the Labor Party. And if you had any doubts then the oil spill in the Gulf would certainly change your mind. But you’d think, wouldn’t you, that these giant corporations, wanting to demonstrate what good citizens they were, would take a bit of time talking to each other and doing a bit of rationalisation. I mean these phones cause damage in obtaining the rare elements that go into their manufacture (and the energy used), and cause more damage when they are dumped into landfill, as their heavy metals leach out. Wouldn’t it make sense to have a common design for basic elements like batteries and chargers, so they were interchangeable? Wouldn’t it make sense to ensure that phones could last a lot longer than 2 years before being dumped for a new fashion, a new gimmick?
Do none of these people (talking about you Ziggy “100 million people in Oz” Switkowski) understand that we have to cut down on the ever expanding flood of demand and waste if we are not going to drown the planet in CO2 and malignant chemicals? Could they not start making money by repairing rather than discarding and replacing? It isn’t that long ago that any appliance could be mended. Now just about none of them can be.
How stupid is that?