I just read a breathlessly exciting advertisement that came in my e-mail in-box today. Gotta share it with you it’s so good. . . It says, “Out with the old, in with the new! The new year is the perfect time to upgrade your Muchmuch XYZZY with the old Candy Corn operating system to the new Muchmuch ZZYXY ™ with the new Popcorn OS. Plus, with the beta user’s membership rebate plan you’re eligible for a $100 prepaid VISA(R) gift card if you trade in your Muchmuch XYZZY before June 14. Also, just for our beta members, get a 10% lifetime discount off a new service plan for your new Muchmuch ZZYXY(tm) when you purchase the service plan with your ZZYXY(tm). Its what Johnson Howard calls, ‘The Best Deal Of 2014!'” (OK, I changed the names and more than a few other details, “to protect the innocent.”)
So much for the advertising. In fact my XYZZY is less than two years old. That’s not really very old, but on the other hand, the original two year service plan is coming to an end. Conventional wisdom seems to be that I should take advantage of this deal. Let’s say I trade in my Muchmuch XYZZY for the new ZZYXY model. What becomes of the old XYZZY? Who would buy it? Maybe it can be refurbished and then sold in another, less advanced country. But the market worldwide for these Muchmuch gadgets is pretty saturated. Even if my old model is refurbished and put back into service for someone else, most likely that person will then recycle or discard his or her older Muchmuch gadget. Somewhere along the line, a gadget is going to get discarded in response to my purchase. Most likely the discarded gadget will go into a landfill or incinerator. Either way the material stuff of the gadget does not really disappear from the planet. It just gets dispersed somehow so that we don’t notice it so much anymore.
In the December 30, 2013 issue of Time Magazine there is a brief article (page 13) giving tips on how to “Make Less E-Waste.” One suggested solution is to code all the parts in electronic gadgets to assist with diss-assembly and sorting so that regulators can track and control the movement of e-waste around the globe. Another suggestion is to use the parts from old electronics to make new devices, like a, “3-D printer.” Finally, they suggest replacing the battery to extend the life of older electronic devices. Really? Is that all there is to it?
What’s a Christian to think of this? What’s a Christian Engineer to think of working for a company that makes things such as the “Muchmuch” gadget and promotes a new model every two years? I’m sorry, I have no easy answers. But clearly proceeding full steam ahead on maximizing the flow of revenue is not really what God wants for His creation. There is beauty and joy to be appreciated from the new Muchmuch ZZYXY(tm), but on the other hand, there is beauty and joy to be had from preserving and caring for the (not really very) old Muchmuch XYZZY. Maybe that’s why there are collectors of some of the really old electronic gadgets. But honestly, we can’t possibly collect all our obsolete stuff. I guess we should have the responsibility to purchase only what we can fruitfully put to use in glorifying the Lord, and no more. That’s not easy to figure out. I think God is interested in seeing how we respond to the challenge.
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