Old is beautiful

An often forgotten but key element of sustainability is the concept of repairing objects.  We are encouraged to recycle but this usually means putting your paper, plastics and aluminium in the appropriate bin so that they can be processed in a huge recycling plant.  Our modern consumer society does not encourage us to repair items because manufacturers want us to buy new ones so that they can make more money.  As reported by Edwin Heathcote in the Financial Times on 30/31 March, 2013 [ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/903545ea-9612-11e2-b8dd-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2QzPabqi1 ], in 1932 during the last Great Depression, Bernard London published a pamphlet entitled ‘Ending the Depression through Planned Obsolescence’ in which he encouraged built-in obsolescence has a way of accelerating the economy out of its recession.  However, this is not an acceptable approach today because, as was predicted by Vance Packard in 1960, it has lead to ‘wasteful, debt-ridden, permanently discontented individuals’ and we live in world of finite resources (see my posts entitled ‘Unavoidable Junk’ on January 14th, 2013, and Open-world Mind-set’ on January 4th, 2013).

We have learn to love old but serviceable belongings.  They are good enough and will suffice.  If they break then we should have them repaired, preferably locally in order to stimulate our economy rather than replacing them with something made abroad.  This will require engineers to think more about repairs when designing artefacts and consumers to learn to regard the patina of age and use as something of beauty.

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2 comments

  1. There is a nice article in the New York Times this week about a knife, scissor and umbrella repairer in Rome, Carmine Mainella who is quoted as saying ‘Today’s society is wasteful. You use something and throw it away. People think “What do I care?”. However, because some people reject the disposable mentality, he is still in business.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/08/world/europe/rescuing-citys-aging-blades-a-member-of-a-dying-trade.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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