Unplanned obsolescence

Are we blindly choosing what’s electric over what’s resilient?

Unplanned obsolescence
Photo by ROCCO STOPPOLONI / Unsplash

The experts will tell you that to tackle climate change, we need to electrify everything: from cars to home energy to manufacturing. We need to rapidly replace internal combustion engines with EVs, and fossil-fuel HVAC systems with electric-powered heat-pumps.

But electrifying everything calls for technologizing everything, and technologizing everything has the tendency to reduce the lifespans of everything. EVs depreciate faster than internal-combustion cars, and historically sturdy appliances like washing machines and refrigerators are starting to require iPhone-like replacement cycles.

Before we blindly accept that electrification is net-positive, it’s worth asking: is the sacrifice of longevity and resilience in the name of decarbonization a worthwhile trade-off?

In most cases, I believe it is, but I worry that many in the climate tech space do not recognize the trade-off taking place: we blindly choose what’s electric over what’s resilient, what’s technologically advanced over what’s antifragile. And when we do, we might miss the deeper work of being in relationship with the physical world instead of constantly upgrading, replacing, and technologizing it. We might miss the bigger invitation to apprentice in the art of repairing and maintaining and tending to.