Valerie Yules Letters

October 12, 2014

Climate change and exercise

Climate change and Housework Exercise

Recently a radio station ran a campaign for more exercise. People rang in about how they exercised with gyms, bikes and so on. None of it was useful, apart from transport.
In the past until about 1950. and in many countries still, exercise by almost everybody was useful. Only the wealthy took on useless exercise – or huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’, which had something at the end of it, or in ancient Greece, they went to the Gymnasium.

Most of the people rested as their recreation; Their work was their exercise – outside, growing their food, or inside, cooking, cleaning and making their clothes.
Today in our cities almost everybody uses electricity instead of exercise in the home.
Yet we can reduce carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary use of electricity and exercising instead.

People could save electricity by bending their knees, stretching their arms, strengthening their arm muscles, tuning up their wrists, and reducing their waistline. Thus with minimum electricity and carbon emissions, they would sweep and garden, clean the floor, polish, and sweep cobwebs off the ceiling.
It would improve their circulation, tone up pelvic-floor muscles, keep the heart fit, strengthen the legs and prevent osteoporosis, by doing housework like it was done up to 1950, without unnecessary electricity.

Carbon-emissions are saved by not driving.
Walking to go shopping used to require for light shopping, a basket, soft-handled string-bag, dilly-bag or backpack, and for heavy shopping, a shopping jeep or pram. This is exercise especially good when the back was kept straight and elegant and pulling or pushing with your arms so that the back was not bent. Shopping was not weighed down with wasteful packaging

A good hand-mower for level or ‘drought’ lawns. Push from the waist, not hunched, for figure-improving exercise for the stomach. Save $$$ and £££. A hand-mower saves carbon emissions and does not annoy neigbours. There is at least one excellent mower on the market so light it almost flies.
Do repetitive jobs with rhythm for more speed, pleasure and exercise – eg dishwash by hand, hang up washing, make beds, use a carpet-sweeper for quick jobs rather than vacuum. Move your feet rather than stand still at kitchen jobs, or use a high stool or chair when convenient, to avoid varicose veins. Carbon-emissions saved by not using electricity.
Exercise while you wait. Walk and turn while waiting for a bus or train or person, turn and stretch when sitting at a phone. These are times to exercise the neck, feet, leg and arm raising, pelvic-floor contracting, posture correction, correct breathing.
Sing or hum around the house or in the bathroom for morale and good breathing. Children love to hear you singing, until they are old enough to discriminate. Dont disturb adults though.
Dance down the passage sometimes.
Creative hobbies for healthy exercise – play music, paint, carpentry, home renovating.
Play with children. Even catching children for bedtime or washing them can be good exercise.
Sleeplessness. A good time for breathing exercises . . . . by the time you have breathed deeply to a hundred or so . . .
Don’t use electrical goods that do the job no better than you could get exercise. Buy the goods you really need to make life easier with the money you save.
Exercise inventions. Here’s an opening for the local bicycle industry. An exercise bike could generate TV power for your home – pedal as you watch, or run a mulch-maker, or . .
One Englishman powers his television with an exercise bike – the children can watch as long as they keep pedalling.
Human energy could generate power for many household tasks, and charge batteries. Treadmills and all those machines to make you strong or powerful or fast, could all do something useful – turning a compost-cutter, helping to make waste-paper into recycled paper, grinding up stuff, charging batteries.

Loneliness is a major reason why people do not like doing housework. Have a child or adult friend around, or listen to interesting talks on the radio to ,or even sometimes enjoy the quiet, to think and daydream.
Do men and women need the same sort of exercise?
For hundreds of thousands of years, men have been the exercise freaks, out hunting and fighting and digging and building, muscling their way around, puffing and panting and sprinting away. Today if modern man does not have regular vigorous exercise, his health deteriorates.
For hundreds of thousands of years, women have worked very hard but at a more regular pace. They have not needed large-muscle speed and power. And if they survived child-bearing and resulting disorders, they lived longer. Today perhaps modern women are still evolved to need that sort of exercise, which most women have had in housework and in the fields. Perhaps puffing and panting exercises are for male physiology, and may wear women out sooner. As, conceivably, the men’s harder, faster life, may actually wear out the healthy male for a shorter life than the conservationist female. Like that famous jogger, they may ‘die healthy’.

Formal exercise is unnatural. That is, understood as formal exercise not contaminated by being useful in any way. I never do any formal exercises. (I’m heading for eighty-six, and last tested bone density was better than my age.) Instead, I do gardening, walk to the shops with a shopping jeep, do housework – including twin-tub washing machine and outdoor drying, and carpet-sweep the floors
Formal exercise can be a waste of fossil fuels as well as waste of time when people substitute it for doing things for themselves.
Snobbery and exercise
Throughout history, slaves and peasants did the hard work. Useful work was thought undignified. Indeed, most of it was dreadful toil. The upper classes got their exercises at sports, hunting and gymnasiums.
Chinese mandarins even grew their fingernails about a foot long to prove they did no manual work.
Today machines can do the dreadful toil. Thank goodness. But should we still be snobs about useful work that is healthy exercise for us? As well as saving emissions, electricity, oil and money.

Do men die younger because they do the wrong sort of exercise – the repetitive fast Olympic sports type (lots of RSS)and not regularly, and women did regular housework exercise? Doing housework exercise at the times that you don’t really need the electric appliances also saves carbon emissions and money, and you can listen to the wireless at the same time. Or just think.


September 22, 2014

Plastic bags in the oceans

Filed under: climate, conservation, economic, social innovations, Waste — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:24 am

Action on plastic bags in the oceans

Until fifty years ago, the world lived without plastic bags. It can be done.
Most people do not realise what happens to plastic bags in the oceans.
One step to action:
Every supermarket should be offered posters to put near their doors –
These posters tell people what happens to plastic bags in the oceans, and offer alternatives to carry their purchases – like cotton re-usable bags and baskets.
Telling of Alternatives to using plastic bags to put their rubbish and dog poo in.
Telling of Alternatives to putting food scraps in their rubbish bins in plastic bags – like worm farms, compost, and waste packaging.
Using plastic bags again and again, not one-use.
See Dr Jennifer Lavers account of what happens to plastic bags in the creeks and oceans and
Waste no plastic bags
Here’s how:
Re-use plastic bags. Keep them in a bigger bag hung on a door, or in your shopping jeep. When you go shopping, put some in your green bag, string-bag, basket or empty grocery box, and re-use them until they are tatty. Then use the tatty bags and empty packaging packets to put your squelchy rubbish in, to put in the rubbish bin what can’t go in the compost. Nobody needs to take home a new plastic bag from the supermarket just for the sake of something to put the rubbish in.
You don’t even need bin-liners, except perhaps a bit of newspaper or cardboard at the bottom.
Plastic bags can also be re-used as pooper-scooper bags, and large pretty bags can be kept for gift-carriers.
And it is amazing how, somehow, plastic bags will breed at home. so you don’t run short.
Reasons against plastic bags
Our billions of plastic bags are about the worst litter after cigarette butts. Plastic bags choke and smother dolphins, penguins, seals, fish, birds, pets and bushland animals.
Plastic bags are made of petrochemicals, increasingly costly. They wreck the environment. Even biodegradable bags can take longer to degrade than the life of the person who chucks them out.
It takes more energy and resources to make paper bags than plastic ones – the solution is to use neither. It is estimated to take 12 million barrels of oil to produce the 100 billion plastic bags used annually in the US alone.
Plastic bags don’t recycle. Anything put inside a plastic bag into your recycling bin will just be chucked away into landfill, plastic bag and all.

What can people do instead of bringing home more plastic bags to put their rubbish in? or buying single-use bin-liners? It depends where you are, especially if you live in a multistorey apartment block, but there are solutions. Sooner rather than later councils and landlords, builders and architects must come up with answers.
But what can you do, wherever you are?
What did people do before plastic bags for their rubbish? Plastic bags made of thin, flexible, blown polyfilm only came in 1977, believe it or not.
In many countries people still throw their rubbish in the street, expecting pigs, birds or sweepers will get rid of it somehow. In places where rubbish is put out in big plastic bags, crows and rats peck, gnaw and multiply. We had hardly any rubbish at all when I was a child, in an Australian city with a Scottish mother. The dustbin was tiny, and the rubbish was wrapped in newspapers that had first been read and then used as kitchen table-cloths or wet-floor mats. Today, if you are able to have a worm-farm or compost bin or pets, or even pot-plants, the only food scraps that really must go out in the trash bin are chicken-bones – and even those can burn into fertiliser in the ashes of my garden-stove.
But if you live in a high rise flat, that does not even have a landing where you can keep a neat little rat-proof worm-farm for friends who like compost, or a rat-proof rubbish chute (very very difficult, because rats eat plastic) there are still other things you can do instead of automatically putting all your kitchen rubbish into plastic bags, hung on a peg or lining a bin. Or worse, putting it down the drains with an insinkerator.
New methods to recycle food waste for useful purposes are developing rapidly. For example, bokashi bins which use fermentation can sit in your kitchen, looking really trendy. The costs of such techniques will keep coming down.
You can look at what sorts of rubbish that you have.
* The only kitchen rubbish that needs wrapping of any sort to keep your rubbish bin clean and unsmelly is the squelchy stuff and bones. But you accumulate enough unrecyclable packaging to put the squelchy stuff into. Waxed cardboard boxes, plastic bags inside cereal boxes and other food packets, the unrecyclable plastic containers, plastic bags that have been re-used so often in shopping that they have become tatty – keep these in a grocery box. As needed, fill these containers with your squelchy rubbish to put in your kitchen bin. All this bin needs is a liner at the bottom, such as the plastic wrapping from a daily newspaper, or tatty cardboard.
IN THE KITCHEN keep your bin for rubbish on the floor or inside a cupboard, the size and shape you need need. If you don’t want to bend, your bin can sit on a box. I like a rectangular bin kept under the table. Just tip in the kitchen rubbish without bagging, except for bones and soggy stuff and bones, which go inside the old packaging. With a worm farm or compost bins of course there is no soggy stuff.
YOUR OUTSIDE WHEELIE BIN needs only a bit of old cardboard or paper, such as copy-paper wrapping at the bottom. The contents of the bin just get tipped into the garbage truck, with no human handling, so plastic wrapping isn’t needed at all..
Your kitchen-rubbish regime soon becomes as easy and automatic a habit as brushing your teeth.
MAKING LESS RUBBISH to go in your bin.
Re-use, recycle, mend, op-shop what you can. Use all the food you buy. Compost what you can for your garden or neighbour’s garden. Make a little worm-farm. Taking out the trash appears to be the major chore for teenagers in American comic-strips. No need here.
Take re-useable string bags, baskets, cardboard grocery boxes (keep boxes in your car) or a shopping jeep. (See the chopping chapter, for a description of the waterproof two-wheeled shopping jeep with a stander foot, that is the most useful and easy to pull or push or let stand.)
Re-use clean bags for shopping, storing things in, for carrying anything you like. Wear one as a hat if you are caught in the rain. It is far more creative as a game to find 100 uses for a plastic bag than finding 100 uses for a dead cat or a brick. Or, ‘100 ways to do without plastic bags’
You can keep your collection of re-useable multi-use grocery plastic bags in a box, or in your ‘green’ shopping bag, which you hang on a coat-hook or in the kitchen, or inside another large plastic bag on a hook, or in your shopping jeep . You find they will breed. More sensible than squeezing them into a bag, to pull out at the other end looking tatty already.)
Keep bags that have become tatty inside another box or bag, to end their working lives as containers for soggy-squilchy rubbish you can’t use for anything.
LARGE PLASTIC BAGS from clothing and other stores are useful for storage and for gift-bags. The labels can be appropriate for the gift – books in a book bag, surprises in a show bag. You can store large bags flat in a drawer, or inside each other on a hook in a back room, or slip bags over an old mop-pole in a corner. It is easy then to find just the one you want.
(But there is another problem. What about the supermarkets? Checkout staff can work quickly when groceries all go straight into the plastic bags that hang ready in dozens below the till. It can be slower when someone hands over green re-usable bags to be filled. When someone uses no standard bags at all it can take longer still, because goods are handed back to the customer to pack herself in her trolley, box or big shopping bag, while she gets in the way, but at present supermarkets with high volume turnover may want to keep on dispensing plastic bags, to avoid slowing down, even for a second. Yet even this can be solved, for example, by ergonomic improvements, or by computerised checkouts that are on the way.)
The old story runs—For want of a horse-shoe nail the kingdom was lost. Plastic bags are like horse-shoe nails in reverse. Smothered in plastic bags the kingdom was lost.
Save a fish! Save petrochemicals! Save landfill! Save the future! Twenty million Australians could save sixty million plastic bags a week! That’s a lot of saving.
Biodegradable bags
Friends of the Earth say degradable and biodegradable bags are not an environmentally friendly option. Degradable plastic bags usually can’t be recycled with normal plastic bags, and people may think they can put degradable bags into their compost bins, which they can’t. Degradable bags are still made from plastic, continuing to place demands on oil. They contain a metal additive to make them degrade and tend to require sunlight to break down. If biodegradable bags end up in landfill, they eventually produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.
Paper bags are no better, says Friends of the Earth. They are less easily reused and require more energy and resources to make and transport than plastic alternatives. Bags made from recycled plastics, which are then reused or recycled, are considered by many to be a better option, but recycling points are not yet widely accessible. Far better to use durable bags, string-bags, baskets or boxes when shopping.

Re-uses for plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap
Plastic mail envelopes and newspaper plastic wrap have more uses than you realize, if you cut or pull them off so they do not tear, and keep them in a handy flat box for the envelopes and a container for the newspaper wraps.
I use them for keeping my papers sorted, mailing papers and disks, covering food dishes in the frig, and in making flower bouquets.
DOG POOPER-SCOOPERS. It is not only undesirable but in many places illegal for dog droppings to be allowed in public spaces. They can spread diseases and parasites, they get washed into drains to pollute them, and mess up unwary footsteps. They cost councils and water-companies a surprising amount of money.
Plastic bags are useful to take with you as pooper-scoopers for your dog. Tongs or plastic gloves are used to scoop them into the bag. Rather than buy plastic bags specially for this purpose, however biodegradable they may be advertised, re-use the bags that turn up in your home anyway, including the plastic envelopes that come in the mail with magazines and reports.
There are now high-tech products advertised to be able to mechanically scoop poo into bags, or to solidify it with expensive sprays, but none so far are worth the money, or to be frank, the extra effort they really involve.
Sooner rather than later however, more environmentally friendly disposal method will be invented, so that all those tons of dog droppings in every city every year can at least be used as fertilizer in compost (since because dogs are not plant-eaters, their poo is not much good on its own.)

April 25, 2014

cheap worm farms reduce landfill from rubbish

Filed under: conservation, economic, garden, social innovations, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:24 am

THIS simple design for a homemade worm farm is rat-proof and fits a small shady space. It suits a family of four, as the worms eat the kitchen scraps so fast!
All you need are two empty plaster or paint cans, often thrown out from building sites, and two cheap plastic garden sieves. Builders and plasterers at a building site will usually be happy to give you the used cans rather than throw them in a rubbish skip.
Place one can in a depression in a shady space on damp ground. Put a sieve on top. Cut the bottom from the second can. Place the can on the sieve. Top it with the second sieve (if there are very clever rats around, weight this sieve with half a brick, so vermin can’t lift it).
The sieves stop rats, mice and blowflies getting in, but allow worms perfect freedom to come and go. A few fruit flies do not matter.
Start off the worm farm with some damp earth with a few worms in it. They will multiply quickly, so there is no need to buy worms.
Then all you do is add your kitchen scraps (except bones) to the top can. Worms don’t like citrus, eggshells or tea leaves much, so put those in your compost bin instead. After a few weeks, you’ll have made rich fertiliser for the garden. Just lift the top can off and take out the fertiliser (full of worms) from the bottom of it. You can also take rich worm tea (from the worm poo) from the bottom can.
Shift the worm farm around the garden if you like, but keep it in a well-shaded spot—a cooked worm farm is a sad and smelly thing.
Apart from the fantastic fertiliser, having a worm farm reduces your waste: only bones and packaging need go out in your rubbish or recycling bins. Your compost bin (or heap) will
a All you need is a couple of old buckets and two garden sieves.
also have less food scraps in it and so will be less likely to attract rats. As an added bonus, the worm farm also stops the used plaster cans from going to landfill; these plastic cans are useful as gardening buckets, too, and for making liquid manure.
It’s amazing how quickly the worms reduce the scraps to earth, so the worm farm is hardly ever full. And with a well-run worm farm there’s no smell.
Friendly neighbours in flats could share a worm farm or you could even keep this farm on a balcony in a flat.
Perhaps councils could promote or sell these very cheap worm farm kits, as well as the more expensive commercial worm farms that many sell already. Everyone could afford one! S

Nature Strips and Climate Change

Filed under: conservation, garden, social innovations, Waste, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:20 am

Nature Strips and Climate Change

Monash Council, Melbourne, is about to allow other planting on nature strips instead of grass. This is a small contribution to reducing emissions through reducing power mowing (since people do not use manual mowing with mowers like my Flymo H33, shops sell only poor quality manual mowers, and CHOICE sees power-mowers as the only choice).

‘Sensible’ planting is of tough ground covers and small shrubs which require minimum care and no watering, and whose seeds do not spread across verges.
Cars can be parked on them; they do not mind.
They can be transplants of tough plants which are already established in your garden.
I have several varieties of gazanias and small daisies. ‘Strawberry creepers’ are also hardy.
Whether Monash will approve my two groups of agapanthus I don’t know yet, since these need trimming to avoid obscuring neighbours’ vision of roads, and their flowers must be cut before they seed.

At present many nature strips are simply dust that is power-mowed. Others bcome mud-patterns when cars and motor-bikes park on them. The tracks of a single car remain for months. People can hold off mowing their strip while all the weeds of the neighborhood flourish on them.

Once people enjoy the savings of time, trouble and petrol of their ‘Nature’ nature strip, they may turn their attention to the rest of their garden, to make it a useful place of beauty, flowers, vegetables, timber, play, relaxation, water-saving, clothes-drying and bird and animal life (except possums!) instead of just another area to keep under control. They can do this too without power-mowers.

Everyone with a pocket-handkerchief of a lawn thinks they need their own several-hundred-dollar noise-making polluting neighbor-annoying petrol-mower. Encourage them to think outside the strip.

Shops full of food

Filed under: conservation, economic, Waste, waste — Tags: , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:15 am

Shops full of food
The food Shops at our shopping centre are full of food. They have far more on display than we can hope to buy. Fresh food must be thrown out; food past its use- by- date must be thrown out.
The shops have to have this display because otherwise we shoppers think the shop has had it, and we will not buy from a shop that does not look full of goods.
But it means we pay more for what we buy, because we must pay for what gets thrown out.
SUGGESTION. Since shoppers will not learn to shop at shops that do not look full of goods, shops could have ‘pretend goods’ apart from what they have a good idea they would sell.
Made of plastic, they will look just like more of the fresh goods that are on sale. They are already on sale by the makers of artificial products for various purposes. They will just make more of them – artificial fruit, vegetables, meats, bread and cake.
When people in the world are starving, we should not insist that our shops carry more than they can sell or even put out for dumpster scavengers.

January 7, 2014


Filed under: Political reforms, spelling, Waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 4:39 am

All my webpages that formerly had URLs including VICNET have changed their URL.

They now are called and then their subhead,

Tell me if u hav eny dificulty.

May 17, 2012

Buying your own produce and manufactures

Filed under: economic, Waste — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 7:47 am

Should Australians buy Australian-grown produce? The answer has been a loud No, if it is not the cheapest or the nicest looking. Now farmers seek to sell their floods-damaged stock and co-ops try to take over foreign owned industries. For the sake of their survival, we are being asked to buy Australian products.

The more Australian jobs there are, the more money there is to buy what we ourselves produce or do.

The more Australian industries are supported by Australians, the more chance they have to thrive and export.  If you have a job, support the jobs of others.

The more Australian products are exported, the less we must import, because the cheaper Australian goods can be on the Australian market, with greater turnover.

The less we import, the less we must depend upon exporting our heritage without leaving any for our children – that is, the less we must exporting all the minerals in the ground, that others may use them to make the goods that we do not make ourselves.

The Western debt-ridden nations have by and large managed to get by, but now there are signs that the lenders may seek their money back, as in Ireland. This debt is largely not government debt, but the results of the imbalance of exports and imports, and it is Western nations such as the United States and Australia that can find their featherless chickens don’t come home to roost. The interest on their debt alone is hard to pay annually – it piles up.

The success of Australian products depend upon the actions of manufacturers, retailers, the media and consumers as well as governments.


Governments have been making taxes and imposts on Australian products and manufacturers, but not on imports or overseas makers.  Tariffs are down to 5% or less, whereas we export to countries with tariffs of 20% or more.

Manufacturers and producers let all Australians down, when they do not give of their best but seek to get away with scams and as high prices as possible, as in the recent government embarrassments of some home insulation and school buildings programs.

Retailers and the media that usually give all their publicity and prominent space to overseas owners and products also let all Australians down.  More people are unable to buy Australian-owned products even when they wish to. Supermarkets have specials which are foreign-made. They do not have Australian specials.   An example is confectionary at Christmas-time, when fine Australian chocolates are neglected so that everyone buys fine imported chocolates. Over the last forty years I have seen excellent companies disappear – either bought up by multinationals and their products made overseas or not at all, or excellent products relegated to corners of shops, and dropped out of sight – and out of existence. An example is the best lawnmower for the average lawn, the Flymo model H33.  I can run this manual mower, Australian-made over twenty years ago, over my lawn in five minutes although I am 83 and have had a stroke, while my neighbors haul heavy power-motors out of the shed and get them going – which I could not do.  Everyone  automatically thinks power-mowers are better for pocket-handkerchief size lawns!  But even the Australian-made power Victor is rivalled by imports.  My old manual lawn-mower saves fuel, money to buy, money to run, noise, and carbon emissions – as well as being durable, mendable and light exercise for everyone including children. But Bunnings has brummy later manual- models on sale, mostly imported, so that people buy power-models. The old Australian-made Electrolux vacuum-cleaners never needed a bag-change. Now we have imported cleaners which can be good but need bag-changes, or are brummy if they don’t.

The magazine ‘Choice’ rarely lists ‘Australian-made’ as an advantage, and indeed, does not often include these products in its choices tested.

As far as I know, no small efficient car is made in Australia, but the car industry struggles on with government support making large cars.

More jobs kept in Australia are desirable for making possible increasing turnover in manufactures and produce. This is better than the present dangerous policy of increasing population to increase wealth. Even before the natural disasters of winds and floods, 1,000 Australian family farm businesses were disappearing annually, another source of our diminishing ‘useful jobs’. Australian manufactures could mean the revival of Port Kembla steel-works.

Imports bring profits to importers, middlemen and financial dealers. But imports cost more in peak-oil, reducing resources, and more carbon emissions than what can be made at home.

It is in our own best interests to support our own when we can. The height of the Australian dollar may mean we pay a little more, but it is money that will circulate back to us.

Not only in buying flood-affected produce, but in supporting Australian enterprise and products in the work of recovery after floods and cyclones.  Rebuilding and replacement will need an enormous amount of manufactures. We cannot make everything; few countries can.

But for future equilibrium, countries will have to balance imports and exports, and where they can, make their own. Regional currencies that complement but do not mesh with national currencies can help provide the capital and should be trialed.

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April 16, 2012

The warning of the Titanic

Filed under: social problems, Waste — Tags: , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:41 am

The interest in the centenary of the Titanic is timely.  We are on a Titanic ourselves.  The lights shine, our luxuries are beyond previous generations’ imaginations, we believe ourselves safe because technology and science protect us, and the rich and poor are segregated.  The iceberg and darkness loom.

January 29, 2012

Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste

Filed under: climate, conservation, social problems, Waste, waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 1:37 am

Rapid obsolescence as a form of waste

I have a fantasy that Stonehenge is all that remains today of an electronic civilisation.  The rest is lost.

Half of all my life’s work is lost on obsolete technology – three forms of tape recording, Deskmate word processing, Amiga animation, floppies, Betacam, microfiche, old editions of modern programs. . All that remains is what I put on paper.  And today schools are throwing out books and relying on electronic technology!

Today I want to put irreplaceable tape recordings of oral history onto CDs or DVDs, but cannot find the technology to do so.

Putting everything into paper archives is unsatisfactory unless we have a means of finding material.  There is much dross.

We need the equivalent of a Rosetta stone for modern knowledge and culture.

Planned obsolescence in electronic technology makes the situation worse. What is good is thrown out as well as what is passe.

Planned Obsolescence and Climate Change


Too many products these days are created and bought with the expectation that they’ll soon be replaced. The consequences are serious.

‘Sometime very soon, we need to start talking about an economy that improves quality of life while reducing the quantity of material resources it devours and excretes,’ That time is now.

My lovely daughter gave me an expensive Olympus digital camera in 2003. I enjoyed using it occasionally. Now, less than four years later, it must be thrown away plus its box of bits and brochures because the camera’s memory card is obsolete. So says the Olympus shop, charging $60 for cleaning the camera before telling us the card cannot be replaced: ‘Try ringing around shops or eBay.’

We live in an era of planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence is a decision on the part of a manufacturer to design products to become unusable quickly. This stimulates marketplace demand because customers must buy again, sooner than they would if the product lasted longer. It happens with cars, light bulbs, software, clothing and buildings.

Our GDP figures prove that this works. There is growth in the economy when people are forced to keep buying replacements. But it is false growth in view of its environmental consequences, and it is false economics because it diverts customer buying power from more sustainable ways of improving our quality of life.

Planned obsolescence increases pollution and environmentally damaging emissions through the production of goods that would not otherwise need to be created. It exacerbates the problems of landfill and waste disposal, because most obsolescing products are not designed to be recyclable. It also wastes materials and workers’ lives that could be spent more profitably and more usefully.

It is difficult if not impossible to find replacement parts for electronic goods even a few years old. Cheap printers may evolve rapidly as technology improves, but cartridge availability for older models is liable to disappear. ‘No more parts made. You’ll have to buy a new printer,’ they say.

And it’s not just the hardware that becomes obsolete. Microsoft’s new Vista operating system, for example, is rumoured to force users to abandon old software and computers and buy new ones, even more than already happens.

This is not to say that continued advances in products aren’t essential despite improvements in technology, we still do not have ideal refrigerators, cars, houses, or almost anything. We still need new inventions and breakthroughs to make lives better.

But customers deserve some idea of how long a product is expected to be repairable or parts available.

A number of factors make this difficult. Companies that guarantee availability and long-term repairability may be located overseas; they may go out of business, or evade responsibility by metamorphosing into another business name. Liability may discourage companies from making too many promises although many products do have guarantees over 10 years, with repair and replacement warranties.

It would be good if products with planned or inbuilt obsolescence could be taxed or otherwise penalised, but this may be too invidious to be possible.

Customer power and public boycotting is probably the strongest and simplest weapon. More customer information about durability, mendability, updateability and availability of parts should be available and sufficiently publicised. (Note that I use the word ‘customers’ and not ‘consumers’ horrible word with destructive implications.)

At present, advertising goes for what is proven to work which is emotional and aesthetic appeal and minimum practical information about a product. Educators today boast that they train students in ‘multiliteracy.’ A major literacy needed by students is purchasing-savvy.

Goods on sale now bear stars for their expected energy and water efficiency, use-by-dates, and logos indicating whether they were made in Australia or by an Australian-owned company. Dangerous products bear warnings.

Perhaps optional logos could carry information about expected durability, mendability, updateability and availability of parts. A bright little rectangle with a time estimate inside it say, ’10 years.’ How long should a new house last before it needs to be pulled down? Fifteen years, one builder told me. Fifty years might be fairer, even if we expect vast changes in the way houses are built over the next few years. A hundred years for large, solid, public buildings seems fair.

If anyone jibs that without planned obsolescence jobs will disappear and capitalism won’t work properly, let us remember that our present economic system is not divinely ordained or necessarily static. We created it. We can improve it to prosper without planned waste.

About half of all production is wasted at some stage or another. Cutting the production of almost-instant waste is a faster and more efficient way of reducing carbon emissions than carbon trading, which assumes emissions can continue as before so long as we plant trees (while other forests are felled).

Far too many jobs are invested in producing waste. The alternative approach is that if everything that needed to be done was being done, there would be no unemployment.

We have to start to take this seriously, because planned obsolescence helps to promote the unplanned obsolescence of us and our planet.


See also Planned obsolescence and climate change New Matilda. 143. 23 May. 2007

August 29, 2011

How your plastic kills the sea-birds and penguins

Filed under: conservation, Waste — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 9:38 am

Most people do not know that the plastic they throw away lands in the storm water drains which go out to sea. They might be more careful if they knew – they think ‘the Council clears it up and it gives people jobs’ when they throw it away.  So every chance must be taken to tell them.   (Fellows on the building site opposite us threw away enough plastic each week to kill a dozen penguins or albatrosses!)

See Science Show on the seabirds killed by eating the plastic bags


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