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[personal profile] cadfael
Reading the Sunday papers and reading the news on CNN's website I was struck by a recurring thought I 've had since I was a kid prowling the streets of Brooklyn, New York.

We produce a wide range of goods and services in this country and in the industrialized world. We have access to the finest minds on the planet. I am mystified, for example, that we cannot produce a subway system in NYC that does not make everyone deaf (over time) caused by the screeching of metal on metal. Or why we allow automobiles and trucks to produce and release so much pollution into the atmosphere.

Put concisely, why don't we design products in a manner that helps the world population live more in harmony with nature. Please don't tell me its the profit motive of business executive like the asshat VP currently in office. That is too easy an answer.

I know that my blood plasma has not yet been fully replaced by coffee yet, so I haven't expressed this so well. But, I would be willing to contact my elected representatives and ask them THE question if we could articulate it properly.

Please have at it, whatcha think?

Uh, honey, that's not their job

Date: 2004-11-14 07:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Put concisely, why don't we design products in a manner that helps the world population live more in harmony with nature.

Our elected representatives don't design products. They sometimes buy them and get other people to install them. They don't design anything concrete.

If you're concerned about product design you would have to address your question to the private industries that design the products.

Now, if you're talking standards, you might have a leg to stand on. But, as you, standardization is not a governmet function here in the USA. The standardization process is driven, to a large extent, by the interests of private industries that stand to profit as a result of any published standards. There are other interests involved, of course. But the greens aren't driving the bus.

It's all about the free market, whether you like it or not.

Date: 2004-11-14 09:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Most of the time nowdays, "WE" are the shareholders of most corporations via our various 401K's, mutual funds, etc. and you didn't want the simple answer about profit.

But the simple answer is corporations need to be led--to be shown that environmentally friendly = more profits. Thats a hard thing to prove. But take the subway example of noisy screeching rails--how do you prove that making a quiet rail benefits society and makes more profit (since society is also the one demanding profit)?

You take into consideration the cost of design improvements offset by the cost savings in healthcare (less hearing aids needed, etc) and show there is a net benefit.

Only when we come together and demand profit AND responsible design will change occur. We are the enemy and the friend.

Not-so-easy profit motive

Date: 2004-11-14 09:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Well, you didn't want the simple "profit motive" answer, but I really think that's the core of what you're getting at. However, I'll do my best to render it less simply.

In my Into to Environmental Sciences class, they talked about something called "full cost pricing." Essentially, manufacturers and designers aren't required to consider the full cost of their products - how much will they cost to dispose of, how much pollution was generated in their manufacture, what potential health hazards do they pose and how much will taking care of them cost.

Because they aren't required to look at the full impact of their actions, it certainly serves the bottom line better to take as narrow a view as possible of what costs the company / designers are responsible for. It's easier, and thus (usually) quicker and cheaper. And our culture is nothing if not impatient for the next big improvement to our (post-)modern lives.

That's my three cents, at least.

Date: 2004-11-15 01:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
There are a couple of things that play into this. First, consumer demand -- manufacturers make goods that there is demand for. Second, costs -- for example, we *can* produce a subway system that would not make all those screetching sounds. All we would have to do is take out all of the curves, replace the relatively narrow tunnels with wider ones, and basically completely rebuild the system. Unfortunately, not only is doing so incredibly expensive, but it would also likely require extensive excavation with who knows what kind of environmental effects.

That is the thing -- in everything, we strike compromises and balances.


But wait! There's good news!

Date: 2004-11-15 05:57 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In many parts of the country you have to get on a waiting list to buy Toyota's gas miser hybrid, the Prius. Ford is coming out with a hybrid SUV this year. People are snatching these cars up.

When I first became a vegitarian, the only food I could eat was the stuff I cooked for myself. New there are vegitarian or low fat options on menus of ordinary sandwich shops.

Consumer demand is slowly changing the offerings of businesses that provide goods and services. In my utopia everybody drives a hybrid or rides public transportation, but it's a matter or raised consciousness and personal choice. I want everyone to come to understand that we are raping our planet, poisoning our ecosystems and squandering our natural resources. Just the same, my libertarian side is not so sure I would want to live in a world in which the government limited what businesses are able to offer.

noisy subways

Date: 2007-04-24 05:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm surprised by this question. During our recent trip overseas, I was incredibly impressed by the metro in Paris, mostly by the convenience and efficiency (and I felt safe), but I didn't notice much noise either. The light rail here in Mpls also seems relatively quiet to me. Is the subway in New York just worse than other parts of this country as well as other parts of the world or am I just insensitive to loud noises (I was congested the whole time)? Maybe it's just that the New York system is older than most other underground systems?
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