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Posts Tagged ‘3R’s’

I don’t know exactly what happened to my old chainsaw. It lasted 20 years and I rarely went easy on it. One day it just locked up. When I went to buy a new one there was a polarity of prices for seemingly similar saws. I asked why. The answer was basically that you pay $700+ for one of similar durability of the old one or you could pay ~$400 for one that was assured of wearing out in less than half the time. The store manager also said that all of the chainsaw companies have gone to this model: professional/homeowner grades. In the case of the homeowner grade, there is a predetermined and decided lack of quality that is sufficient to last a few years but not many. The plan is to sell more chainsaws at an affordable price, knowing they will have to come back for another one in a few years. The term for this “weak link” or introduced design flaw that results in an “artificially limited useful life” is planned obsolescence.

My wife has a nice crockpot that she uses regularly. It seems quality enough and I see no reason why it shouldn’t cook food for many years to come. However, recently the plastic handle on the glass lid broke. When I looked at it, two terms came to mind: cheap and planned obsolescence. If taken reasonable care of, there is little to break on this crockpot, except for the lid handle. If you can’t get the hot lid off of the crockpot safely, then you can’t really use it. Most people would throw the crockpot away. Some small percentage, probably less than one percent, might search for the part and buy it on Ebay or from the manufacturer. An even smaller percentage of people would make a durable replacement handle. I am part of this latter demographic, this smallest of tribes. The handle needed to be durable, easy to handle for my wife, and look at least reasonable.

About the time this all happened I was teaching my Biology students about cells. I had forgotten to discuss a term for programmed cell death- apoptosis. So, the day I took the lid and my materials into school to make the handle in the wood shop, I presented the parts before my classes with an explanation of planned obsolescence and my plan to reuse rather than recycle the crockpot. Then I proceeded to a segue into apoptosis. Cells have a weak link, as it were, to prevent them from going rogue, i.e. cancerous. Obviously, it doesn’t always work, but it prevents harm far more than allows it. 

I had a student ask me if that means that “death really is a natural part of life.” I replied that on the contrary, the programmed death of cells when external or internal cues of stress arise is a way to prolong the organism’s life at the expense of individual rogue cells. Oh, that corporate entities were so altruistic and sacrificial, but perhaps I am looking at the situation from the wrong perspective. Perhaps the crockpot is the sacrificial cell that rescues the corporate organism by not outlasting its economic value. After all, whose survival are we concerned about here?

At any rate, planned obsolescence in cells is a good thing. I guess it brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, “stressed out”. Check out my new durable handle.

20191219_215819

Chicken is done!

20191219_215829

Custom made, prime, aged, ergonomic hickory wood handle from a tree where I grew up!

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