Join The Higherside Chats podcast as host, Greg Carlwood discusses the social, environmental, and economic impact of planned obsolescence with guest, Cosima Dannoritzer.
While we’ve all seen the nefarious motives of international corporations, in egregious acts like contaminating our oceans and drinking water to polluting our atmosphere; one aspect that we may find ourselves overlooking is their carefully crafted agenda focused on shortening the lifespan of widely used consumer products. But, as luck would have it, today’s guest, Cosima Dannoritzer, joins The Higherside Chats to help us unravel the effect of this seemingly minute detail and better understand the enormous scope of issues humanity is facing due to our worship of the almighty dollar and our refusal to abandon the sinking ship of capitalism.
4:02 To kick things off, Greg and Cosima begin by discussing exactly what planned obsolescence is. It’s origins can be traced back to the 1950s and American industrial designer, Brook Stevens. Although Stevens originally used it as a way to capitalize on the consumer’s desire to own or replace items before they’ve been worn out, it has since been synonymous with consumer products built with a limited lifespan. Dannoritzer also details the various forms of planned obsolescence, including product malfunction and psychological factors influencing our consumption patterns.
13:30 After outlining the conditions surrounding the inception of the “lightbulb cartel” and their agenda to sabotage the quality, marketing, and durability of their product, Cosima cites a specific pre-cartel bulb that has been burning for over 100 years and serves as a shining symbol in a shift of not only the quality of manufacturing, but the mindset of consumers and businesses. She also recounts a first hand experience in India where the paradigm is still repair rather than replace.
18:42 This fail-by-design approach to manufacturing is an unfortunate result of our emphasis on a growth economy. Listen as Cosima illustrates the stark difference between Eastern Bloc communist countries with limited resources and the wasteful Western world rooted in commercialism.
27:20 Another blatant example of corporations “shortening the replacement cycle” can be seen in the design of ink-jet printers. Dannoritzer maps the course where consumers began to really lose control and buying power, starting with the lightbulb and eventually working it’s way to electronics. It was the expansion of the complicated consumer electronic market that opened the gates for manufacturers to fine tune their built-in obsolescence via 21st century technology like microchips.
37:15 Cosima elaborates on another example of planned obsolescence involving women’s tights and stockings. She also discusses the best options for breaking the cycle of waste and consumption, starting with products designed to be updated throughout time, rather than replaced.
43:42 Planned obsolescence goes beyond corporations engineering products to fail. With the vast majority of products containing toxic chemicals, fibers, and dyes that can’t be composted, it is easy to see that our civilization is on the brink of an epic ecological crisis.
Subscribe to the plus show to hear the extended episode, including:  

-Seattle’s Toxic Ash dumping scandal

-the pros and cons of class action lawsuits

-the extent of the health problems e-waste causes

-the move away from independence granting skills in school and culture

-laws and regulation differences around the world that are quiet telling of the systems they’re instituted in

-the expected resource crisis of 2030

-leading ideas for more sustainable systems

Want more Cosima Dannoritzer? Check out her films “The Light Bulb Conspiracy” and “The E-Waste Tragedy”
Want to hear more THC? Become a plus member and gain access to the additional hour as well as the THC forums! If you want to stay connected to The Higherside Chats, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, check out our YouTube channel, find us on Reddit, or review us on iTunes. Thanks for the support, and until next time.
Photo credit: “The Light Bulb Conspiracy” / Media 3.14
A few valuable resources from the interview:
Industrial Strength Design: How Brook Stevens Shaped Your World: https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/industrial-strength-design
Phoebus Cartel (light bulb manufacturer cartel): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel
the Mysterious Case of 113-Year-Old Light Bulb (in the firehouse): https://priceonomics.com/the-mysterious-case-of-the-113-year-old-light-bulb/