The Value of Connection During a Crisis
While writing this article in April of 2020, the world is facing a health crisis larger than we’ve seen in decades. Connectivity through smart devices, the internet, and social media has accelerated the speed of information and has allowed us to adapt quickly and take drastic action to protect ourselves against Covid-19. In 1968, another pandemic, Influenza A, swept the world claiming over one million lives globally, and more than 100,000 in the United States alone. Similar to today, vaccination wasn’t an immediate option and information became a powerful tool to combat the spread. Unfortunately, we simply didn’t have the means to connect with one another on a mass scale and advocate for drastic action at that time.
Today, we find that connectivity through electronic devices has not only helped to advance the spread of information, but it’s also connected us in a way that helps us share, learn, and adapt faster. We’ve become dependent on this global social network and for good reason. While the 60’s didn’t have the internet yet, this decade ushered in one of the most significant eras of technological advancements: the rapid release of the first commercial computer systems. Smart device sales have grown steadily ever since.
When technology advances, what do we leave behind?
In 2014, there were more cellular phones in the world than human beings. By the end of 2020, it’s projected that there will be more than 4 internet-connected devices installed and in-use for every household in the world. This rise of the Internet of Things, though it replaces many modern-day inconveniences with quick-thinking AI, also presents a significant problem; one that may be difficult to acknowledge as we battle this pandemic, but one that is, nevertheless, essential to address. That problem is how to reduce the impact of waste caused by our technology products on our world.
E-waste, as it’s come to be known in the small industry channels that monitor and support the after-sales life of consumer electronics, is a rapidly growing concern; but we have a path to sustainability. Industries in the circular economy of after-sales equipment have a huge role to play in extending the life of the billions of electronic devices in the world and reducing their waste.
Cleaning Up After Our Tech
Ereuse.org is a not-for-profit group that started as a local movement in Catalonia. It now helps aggregate awareness and activism around the world and proclaims,, “a device or component is reusable if it has or may have use value for someone.” In other words, it’s reusable if there is a potential user that would still find it valuable with only basic refurbishment, like deleting data or reinstalling an operating system. However, the organization also says, “if the use value is too low, it can be increased through several types of refurbishment: repairing, replacing damaged components, updating or upgrading.
Reuse, repair, and refurbishment have become an essential part of the electronics ecosystem, often referred to as a ‘circular economy’ because so many of these electronics can be used a second or third time before depleting their value or reaching a logical end of life.
Today’s repair industry plays a vital role in this ecosystem by not only helping to maintain and support a longer, first-owner life of a device, but also by helping to properly refurbish devices that can extend value to a second owner.
Reuse and repair are key to preserving our world.
Through sustainability practices and social responsibility, we can significantly reduce waste generated by the disposal of consumer electronic goods. But protecting our products and extending their life is not only an ecologically necessary step, it is also an economically-viable means for improving our standard of living and keeping humanity connected and informed.
Amid all the topical news of the week, as critical as it is, it’s important to remember Earth Day and the values that we, as global citizens adopted into our culture on April 22, 1970. Fifty years ago we established Earth Day and gave a voice to an emerging public movement dedicated to protecting our world. Although it’s been half a century, the message of Earth Day hasn’t changed. That is our Earth, its care and preservation, is an essential investment in our future. It is a message we must keep top of mind now, amid the pandemic which alone threatens to overtake our every effort.
Today, as we continue to praise and support the frontline workers performing essential duties during the pandemic, let’s also thank those who work tirelessly to support our connectivity, our products, and our planet. Repair is alive and injects vital support into our economy, bringing accessibility to information and community to many who may not otherwise reap its benefits. Most importantly, it helps reduce waste and slows the cycle of improvidence that is damaging our planet. By focusing on and supporting skilled repair and refurbishment of the products we’ve come to depend on the most, we are doing our part to give Earth a fighting chance to thrive for generations to come.