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Obsolescence: Built In? Consumerism, Government and Environment; the Urge to Buy; Is Government Environmentally Friendly

Updated on September 15, 2018
annart profile image

Ann enjoys writing about social issues, inspired by something topical or personal experience. She finds common sense lacking in politics.

Definition of Democracy


A system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives

The key words here are 'the whole population'

Through the Eyes of the Young

I’m a teacher. I’ve had discussions with 3 year-olds and 20 year-olds. They have more sense in them than any politicians I’ve heard. They still have an innocence; they still have hope.

If I said to my class, you have to be fair, kind, hard-working and not wasteful, they would agree with me, they would see the sense in that. So would most people I know.

Expensive Machinery


Basic Values

So why can’t politicians see sense in those things? Is government not a part of the way we live? Are they not human beings who live life like that in their own homes? It would seem not.

Do we spend thousands on a business project, then throw our office furniture, our machines, our employees out the window? 'Don't be silly' I hear you say. But the government has done that, realising that some faddy project isn’t going to make as much money as they thought, isn’t working the way some jumped-up civil servant said it would. Did they sell the furniture? No, it went on the tip. Were the new machines passed on? No, they went on the tip as well. Were employees offered other jobs? No, they went on the dole. Did government care? No.

Emerging from War and Poverty

After the war and into the 50s, a reasonable way of life slowly returned to shell-shocked Britain. Prosperity began to increase and to help it, government had an idea. We were encouraged to buy to help the economy.

Wages were rising so why not treat ourselves? Why not buy instead of make? Why not eat out instead of at home? Why not spend instead of save? Life had been austere, we had to make do and mend. We deserved a break. Yes, we did, but did we have to tip the scales so far?

Chain Stores and Holiday Camps - Spend and Enjoy!

First Chain Store in Britain
First Chain Store in Britain | Source
Butlins in the 1980s
Butlins in the 1980s | Source


The car was a great invention. Wasn’t it? We no longer needed a bicycle and the effort it involved. We didn’t need to walk a mile to the shops, especially in the rain. We didn’t need to walk with our friends and enjoy a chat and a laugh in someone else’s house or at the local coffee shop.

No, we could have a car, be lazy, not worry about the lack of exercise, not worry about getting fat or compromising our health. We’d meet everyone in town and spend even more money on more expensive drinks and food. We’d spend less time at home, we’d desert our parents and younger siblings and leave them worrying about when we'd get home, whether we would even get home at all. It was fun and no one saw what was happening.

Mr Ford said ‘You can have any colour as long as it’s black.’ Having a car was exciting, fun and, yes, useful too of course, here in Britain just as in the US.

Then suddenly, practicalities like the importance of a well-running engine and safe brakes took second place to trivialities. To encourage us to spend even more, industries gave us a colour choice surpassing an artist’s palette. We had white-walled tyres, fins on the wings, spoilers at the back. We had to have the latest design, what everyone else had.

So it continued, as we were swept off our feet by the dashing Mr & Mrs Materialism.

A Basic Car - then a Fashion Accessory!

1925 Model T Ford
1925 Model T Ford | Source
A long way from the Model T
A long way from the Model T | Source
Austin A40 Somerset 1952
Austin A40 Somerset 1952 | Source
Bristol 403 2 litre
Bristol 403 2 litre | Source

Let's Stop, Let's Think a Little

Until, that is, a few of the more enlightened realised that something had to give. What about all those fumes? Industry had already given us smog in the cities. Wasn’t the car adding to that? Weren’t we poisoning our environment? Where were we to put the old oil, discarded metal and broken plastic?

Ok, we’ll have smaller cars, safer cars, hybrid cars, said industry and government. Yes, but they still need petrol. Really? Ok then, we’ll have those electric cars that someone’s come up with. We’ll give a concession; £5000 off the price for anyone who buys a new electric car. Each council will provide charging points in town centres. Aren’t we good? We’re doing our bit to save the planet.

Pollution in the Cities

Nelson's Column during the Great Smog of 1952
Nelson's Column during the Great Smog of 1952 | Source

Is Government committed to Helping the Environment?

Technology is improving all the time, meaning that now electric cars are a feasible alternative. However, even with £5000 off, the price of an electric car is still higher than the smallest available conventional car. There are nowhere near enough charging sites and not every electric vehicle is eligible for the £5000 concession. It’s not an easy option because government doesn’t want it to be.

If we go electric, they will lose millions in revenue and so will the oil industry. Yet they call us cynics if we point this out as a reason for them stalling. They’ll find a way of taxing the chargers, I’m sure, but it won’t come anywhere near the revenue they have now. Will they put their money where their mouths are and encourage a change to electric cars? Will they have the courage to practise what they preach? I don’t think so!

Electric cars might not be the best way forward but it would be a start. However, cars are not the only consideration.

Mercedes Vito E-Cell, one of the vehicles eligible for the government grant
Mercedes Vito E-Cell, one of the vehicles eligible for the government grant | Source

Built-in Obsolescence

Every house now has a washing machine. My first washing machine lasted 25 years! I buy one now and I’m lucky if it lasts half that time. Why? Have we not progressed in technology? Can’t we build them like that any more?

Of course we can! I was startled to learn, from a documentary, that many machines have built-in obsolescence. It didn’t surprise me when I found out why but I wasn’t aware it affected so much of what we buy.

There is a little chip added to many machines, a chip that counts down to melt-down from the moment we switch on our washing machines, our printers, our phones - you name it, there’s probably a chip in it. We spend our money on something we want to last, something we look after, and it will run out when the manufacturer wants it to, so that we have to buy another and another.

What a waste! What deceit! What a lie!

If machines last for ages or even for ever, manufacturers will lose out, the economy will dive, is their argument. Will it? Won’t there be other inventions? Won’t companies come up with ingenious commodities? Won’t necessity create something better, more appropriate?

How Long Will These Last?

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Washing MachineFridge-FreezerPrinterVacuum CleanerMobile Phone
Washing Machine
Washing Machine | Source
Fridge-Freezer | Source
Printer | Source
Vacuum Cleaner
Vacuum Cleaner | Source
Mobile Phone
Mobile Phone | Source

Addiction and Politics

We’re caught up now in this world of materialism and consumerism. We’re hooked, we’re addicted. We don’t know how to live without it. We’ve been conditioned, like Pavlov’s dogs, to bite and swallow when something new comes out, when the signal is given. It’s the latest, the best, the brightest, the tallest, the smallest, the most efficient; then, mindless as we are, we buy it, we follow the crowd, we don’t stop to think.

Household goods, furniture, fashion, they all come under the same heading. We want it all, whether or not we’ve got something perfectly adequate at home. All our houses have the same furniture, the same colour walls, the same machines. We want to wear the latest trend, designer labels. Whatever happened to individuality?

Where’s the spirit of making do and mend, the individuality of not keeping up with the Joneses, the pride in making things oneself, the thriftiness of repairing at least once before you throw something out?

We’ve been taught to spend, spend, spend; it’s good for the economy, you should support your country. What they really mean is they want more and more money to feed their schemes, their individual pockets, their political aims - yes, it is political, yes they do have sticky fingers in fattening pies.

Furniture and Fashion

Leather Settees
Leather Settees | Source
Designer Dresses
Designer Dresses | Source

We Can Make a Difference

Some groups and individuals are beginning to have the courage to be different, to bravely shrug off this consumerism, this nagging voice inside that says, ‘Oooh, I want that.’ Some live life carefully, frugally and are no less happy because of it; I would suggest they are in fact happier.

We need to make those voices louder. We need to add our own voices so that the noise swells until politicians can’t help but hear, so that they can’t ignore it. We mustn’t stop until government changes, until we have politicians who truly believe in a better world and who are willing to go about their jobs ethically and honestly. Am I being unrealistic, idealistic? Maybe, but we have to try.

What Can We Do?

We can take action ourselves! Here are several ideas we've had for our home, some of which have been put into action:

  • have a tank of rainwater (higher than the waste pipes, inside or out) to feed the toilet flush
  • have a water butt in the garden to collect rain for watering plants etc
  • use solar energy to run a 12 volt rechargeable battery which can run your lights at the very least
  • if you want a new kitchen, keep the units and just replace the doors (maybe with recycled wood)
  • plant herbs and vegetables wherever you have room in your garden (or more if poss)
  • revamp furniture with fresh foam, recycled wood, anything else you might be able to use
  • save old nails, screws, hinges, nuts, bolts, taps, plugs etc in jars in the garage
  • use old wardrobes and drawers for storage in the garage
  • regulate any heating to the minimum you're comfortable with - or put on a jumper!
  • revamp old clothes by shortening, trimming, adding beads - use imagination!
  • old garden furniture looks great with a lick of exterior paint and/or a varnish
  • learn how to make.... anything!
  • challenge the local council when necessary
  • challenge your local MP; press them to tell you their true beliefs and aspirations
  • have a local voice when you're unhappy about a local issue

I'm sure you can add to this list. Do share your ideas in the comments!

Store, Recycle, Restore

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Rows & Rows of Jars in the GarageOld Wardrobe for StorageRevamped Garden Furniture; Table, ....... Chairs & BenchParsley, Sage & Thyme - just need the Rosemary!
Rows & Rows of Jars in the Garage
Rows & Rows of Jars in the Garage | Source
Old Wardrobe for Storage
Old Wardrobe for Storage | Source
Revamped Garden Furniture; Table, ....
Revamped Garden Furniture; Table, .... | Source
... Chairs & Bench
... Chairs & Bench | Source
Parsley, Sage & Thyme - just need the Rosemary!
Parsley, Sage & Thyme - just need the Rosemary! | Source

Are the Politicians Listening? Can we Make them Listen?

Until those who pretend to look after us begin ruling us with kindness, fairness, with a view to making the world a better place for each and every one of us, then we’re lost.

They try to make their mark on history. Don’t they realise that if they make the right choices, the brave choices, they will go down in history with a big tick against them, with a glowing report, with smiles and pats on the back?

But no, they don’t want that. They want fame, a posh house, holidays on the yacht with famous people; most of all, power to make them feel good and investments to make them rich.

He’s a tall man when he stands on his wallet - who has the courage to be able to stand tall through his endeavours, his principles and the kindness of his heart? If only, oh if only...

That’s my challenge to every politician in the world. If we all challenged them, we would win.


Do you think we can make a difference?

See results

© 2014 Ann Carr


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    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      5 years ago from SW England

      aesta1: Thanks for your input and I'm glad you like this hub. It's so important to try to make a difference; good that you keep things 'in stock' too! Happy New Year to you!


    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love this hub for its call to action. Yes, there are many things we can do and let's just do it, notwithstanding our government's priorities. This is our world and our responsibility. At our place, we still have bottles of buttons and screws my husband's parents kept for future use. We still find things we need in these.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Jaye. Great rant! I agree entirely. I have an AppleMac and that's not so bad but some of the same applies.

      Thanks for the input and for the votes.


    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 

      6 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Speaking of planned obsolescence.... Every time I read an article lauding Bill Gates for his 'generosity', I want to throw up. Gates can afford to donate some of his billions because he built Microsoft on the concept of 'planned obsolescence', a practice in which it continues.

      Operating system software that could be tweaked and supported is regularly dumped by Microsoft so that consumers must buy a newer version in order that their computer data will be offered protection. These newer versions are NOT necessarily better; in fact, some are so full of 'bugs' and cause users so many problems that the next version shows up less than a year later as a replacement for a poor product.

      This practice causes expense that many computer users can't really afford, not to mention the learning curve needed to master the 'new, but not improved' software. The XP operating system is a prime example of an excellent program that Microsoft stopped supporting simply because users liked it so much they wanted to keep it. They were forced to replace it.

      So, please don't praise Bill Gates to me! Okay, that's MY rant, and I'm sticking by it.

      Voted Up++


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      ecogranny: I much appreciate your visit here and your lovely comment. I'm glad you liked this hub and that you identify with it so well. Thank you for following me and for your delightful fanmail.


    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      Thrilled to find you and this article on HubPages. Forgive me for gushing, but I feel I've found a soul mate! Gratitude up and down for the passion you feel about this. Your students are lucky to have such a thinking, caring person guiding them.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      chef-de-jour: Thanks for the great comment and input. I like the poetry book, pot of tea & garden shed! Holidays at least broaden the mind and allow us to meet new people and different cultures which is no bad thing.

      Good to see you today. Enjoy the weekend!


    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      6 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Thank you Ann. I own very little in the way of material goods and have always felt the need to question the reason for having the latest this and the most fashionable that. I'm happiest with a poetry book and a pot of tea in a garden shed; happier still walking through a wood. My only vice is travel - I love to go far afield but I think even that is coming to an end. You're right to flag up the political systems that encourage this endless need for greed. Many have too much but want even more! It's becoming obscene.

      Votes and a share.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      tobusiness: Thank you for reading and for your input; yes, it happens all over the place, this crazy waste of money. What are they thinking?

      I appreciate you taking the time to stop by.


    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Wow indeed. When I see how our government waste millions of our hard earn tax, it makes me angry and so helpless.

      Our last government spent a fortune on state of the art critical care unit and A&E dept. in the trust where I work a few years ago, the next lot decides to change the plan, they close the new unit, move the services to another hospital. They are now building more new facilities. Heaven knows what will happen if they lose the next election. How crazy is that? The fact that our electrical equipment are primed to fail, doesn't surprise me in the least. Great hub.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, RQ. Good to see you. I like the Churchill quote; typical of him!

      I appreciate your visit and your comments. Glad you like the small glimpses of my home too. Hope your weekend is equally as good.


    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      P.S. Actual quote by W. Churchill:-

      "We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle"

    • Romeos Quill profile image

      Romeos Quill 

      6 years ago from Lincolnshire, England

      You tell 'em Ann!

      There are still a few good eggs out there and some of the genuine public servants around this constituency never seem to hoist themselves into a more influential position because they live by common sense and refuse to compromise their integrity by kissing a$$, so just beaver away on a much-needed local level.

      I sincerely believe that each one of us can make a difference with whatever gifts we've been blessed with and it must be frustrating for you being a teacher being in receipt of the fact that with more knowledge comes more responsibility.

      I remember a quote from Churchill; to paraphrase:-

      " Trying to spend your way out of recession is like trying to lift your self up whilst standing in a bucket."

      I guess it starts with the individual making their own decisions as far as possible like you have relayed here in your realistic Hub, and hopefully, educate others that they truly do have more power than they realize which should encourage them to take a firmer grasp upon the reigns of their own lives.

      Enjoy the rest of the weekend break dear Ann, and, by the way, you have a lovely home.

      Best Wishes;


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Maj: I haven't been to Melbourne yet but my partner's been just about everywhere in Oz. I hope to see it next time we go but no plans as yet! Ann

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      Hi Ann - yes, yellow and brown feature here.

      I'm in Melbourne Victoria, near the Dandenong Ranges, spring has arrived and it's delightful. Best - Maj

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      travmaj: Yes, the water thing is ridiculous. We go by the 'if it's yellow let it mellow...' etc. saying! Only when we don't have visitors though, unless they understand!

      Like you, I often look at the big shopping malls and wonder about the vast numbers all around the country. Are we going mad?!!

      By the way, where in Australia are you?

      Thanks so much for the visit and the great input. Ann

    • travmaj profile image


      6 years ago from australia

      All so true - even the humble light globe is obsolete after a certain amount of hours. And last year an amazing number of TV sets lined up around here for the bi yearly rubbish collection. I had to visit a shopping centre the other day - a Wednesday and was amazed when I couldn't park. Mid week, packed with shoppers - can't imagine what they could be buying. And that's only one centre, I've lost count of how many there are.

      We live in a rural area and our only water supply comes from the rain on the roof. It can get problematic in summer - I have to say , when I'm travelling, I'm always amazed by the amount of water 'needed' to flush a toilet. I won't dwell on the septic system. Ah well, enough from me...

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      erinshelby: Yes, fashion is a sort of planned obsolescence I suppose. I hadn't really thought of it like that but you're right of course. Thanks for reading and commenting. Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks for the visit and your input. Funnily enough, I expected you to be one of the 'recyclists'!


    • erinshelby profile image


      6 years ago from United States

      The pictures of the dresses made me think of how fashion trends tend to change so quickly. What's "in" this year will not be the trend next year, will it? That's somewhat of a planned obsolescence.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      What a great article Ann!! Consumerism is very like an addiction I think--and like one, difficult to break--re-use is the mantra in our household!

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, John; I appreciate your comments and the vote.

      There must be many instances like that, that we know nothing about. They do so much behind our backs. Maybe one day we'll make a difference!


    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      6 years ago from Queensland Australia

      One of the best hubs I have read in a long time Ann. Valid points and we all need to try to do as many of these suggestions as possible. Together people have enough power to change Government's thinking and protecting the interests of big business. We could have had water/hydrogen powered cars 40 years ago, but fuel companies bought the patent so it wouldn't be developed. We need to stand up as one. Voted up.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thanks, Frank. I know what you mean; when I look around and see all the tv ads etc, I can see how people get caught up in it all and I know I'm in the minority. Depressing but at least I can still be true to myself!

      Your visit's greatly appreciated.


    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      6 years ago from Shelton

      I hear the calls.. and it seems everyone from different generations hear the calls.. a little progress is made then they take two steps back. I think since we are a capitalist society the old mighty buck will always remain on top of everyone's list... the few that really care hold the most burden until it becomes to heavy and they too shall crumble and fall... :( great hub none the less my friend :)

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      DDE: Thank you for your comment. Glad I can pull out a surprise now and then! It's a slightly different subject for me but I hate waste and I can't understand why government can't follow a path which doesn't always involve money.

      I appreciate your visit. Ann

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Thank you, Faith. Yes, money is the root, sadly. It sounds as though you do really well on the recycling front. I agree that old things have much more character and soul.

      I always appreciate your input, Faith, and thanks for the votes too. Your support is amazing.

      Hope you have a great Thursday.


    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      Flourish: Experiences win hands down any day. A few precious things hold memories but the rest is mostly 'stuff'. I love having a turn-out and giving bits and pieces to the charity shop. It gives me a feeling of space and air.

      Thanks for your input; great to see you here this morning.


    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Great thought here. You surprised me with this one. Somebody has to make a difference and your points are heard greatly.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      6 years ago from southern USA

      Brilliant indeed ... Ann for president!!! Oh, no, there's only one big problem, you are in another country.

      Wow, what an amazing hub here and spot on all the way through with such valid points.

      We have two or three old wardrobes and drawers out in my husband's man garage, and he uses them for all of his storage needs. I love revamping old furniture, and really the old has so much more character and charm than anything new. I am a big believer in repainting old outside furniture. There is no sense in ever throwing that away when it is still useful.

      Yes, we can each make a difference. It seems that the bottom line always leads back to money, sadly. Such greed to make a fast buck at any cost no matter who is harmed or the world in which we live.

      Voted up and more and away

      Blessings for a lovely evening, dear Ann.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      We can all seek to live by example, finding creative uses for our old stuff, recycling, upcycling and just doing without. I have a large house and do rather well, however it is not filled with much "stuff" much to the chagrin of my family. That's just not what pleases me. I prefer to save money and resources, loving the environment and cherishing experiences over things.

    • annart profile imageAUTHOR

      Ann Carr 

      6 years ago from SW England

      A brilliant! Thank you so much!

      My rant started when I watched the tv programme that I mention here. The scale of the built-in obsolescence really got me and the progression of government influencing consumerism was astounding. I should have realised of course but then I can be a bit naïve occasionally!

      When I rant things come into my mind quite clearly; I write these sort of hubs much more quickly than my others. My worry is they're too rambling; I had to edit this one significantly so was bothered it might not have worked. You seem to think it did, so that's fine by me.

      Thanks, bill, for your honest comments; I can always rely on you for that.

      Glad you liked this. I was in a bullish mood and, like you say, it all 'boiled over'!

      Yes we can make a difference, as long as we keep shouting, as you've told us already.

      I greatly appreciate your support and your humour. I have a small group of people here whom I'm naturally drawn to, who seem to think like me, and you, of course, are one of them. They also write extremely well!

      Thanks, bill.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Wow! Ann, I don't think I've ever read a rant by you. How great was that? How welcomed after reading ten articles about favorite movies and better ways to cook meatloaf. LOL Where did this come from? It must have been building up for quite some time and finally just boiled over, and I love it.

      Why are governments unconcerned with logical solutions? Because they are bought and paid for. You know it, I know it, anyone with a brain understands that corporations run our governments....and it is up to each of us to affect change in society. Will we do it? I know I will...I know you will...and that's a start.




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