“The light bulb conspiracy” is one of those documentaries which not leave you indifferent; it hits a nerve and develops a critical spirit on you.
It discusses the issue of planned obsolescence, that is to say the scheduled reduction of the useful life of some products to increase their consumption. The documentary begins with the example of a printer and discovering the real reason why it has stopped working. Then, it starts by explaining the origins of this plan, which lies in the creation of a cartel (Phoebus). This cartel consisted in changing the light bulbs’ manufacturing patents with the aim to last only 1000 hours. And up to cases such as cars, nylons and latest products-generation such as iPods (with a battery of only 18 months for the purpose you have to buy a new appliance when finished). It was between the decades of 1920-1930 that the following idea emerged: An item which did not break down was a tragedy for businesses and for their employers. So since then, the fact that there is the need to create fragile products or with a limited lifetime has been promoted. Therefore, sales and profitability remain constant, thus the global economy can keep going. The businesses defend themselves saying that the consumers are free to buy whatever they want. Let us not fool ourselves; nowadays advertising and fashion have a lot of influence in our consumer society.
The film fulfils its goal, to make you think about consumerism in a society of constant growth. Where there is this cycle of constant acceleration of production, consumption and waste. It makes you consider the fact that if we carry on with this model a day when we run out of resources will come. So, additionally, we should take into account that “there is an infinite progress head in a finite planet.” One important consequence to keep in mind is that with greater consumption comes higher waste. The documentary wisely shows us that a large amount of waste end up in Ghana, Africa. They enter the products with the label of second-hand ones. There, they try to repair and use the again, but mostly they end up in landfills increasingly full.
Finally, the film gives a few examples and an interesting proposal: That is essential to create more laws to ensure that companies eliminate their products in an environmentally friendly way. I totally agree with it and we should start finding ways and alternatives to reconsider this existing planned obsolescence and rethinking the values of our present society and economy.
I believe it is a complicated issue, but today there are already moves up against this planned obsolescence. Should we need to start asking ourselves these challenges and promote them? Of course, yes. We need to try changing and overcoming the barrier that one day Gandhi said: