Good Energy

The guys at Good Energy have been really supportive and excited about the expedition, so much so that they have made a contribution which allows me to keep the blog regularly updated during the expedition, so they and everyone else can follow the journey. Good Energy supplies 100% renewable electricity sourced from wind, water, sun and sustainable biomass. CO2 from coal-fired electricity generation is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the world. Switch your electricity supply to Good Energy using this link and not only will you be supporting the pioneering community of independent green generators, but for every sign up they get they’ll make another donation to help get the bus around the world. It helps you cut your personal CO2 emissions, helps them grow a great business, and helps me get round the world.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

On why mechanics drive shit cars and marketing driven consumption.

It's a fact that mechanics put up with cars that have lot of faults because knowing that it only takes a tweak here or there to fix it, transforms the problem from a fault with the car into a chore that needs doing.

Having been (albeit briefly) a manufacturing engineer and studied product design, I'd say this transformation, in reverse, is at the heart of creating a desirable product. Products are, in a purely physical sense, materials that have been manipulated into a form that allows them to perform a function.

Being aware of this manipulation process, the mechanic doesn't see his car as a car-object, but as a collection of parts, some of which need replacing or tuning, where as a motorist would see the car as a car-object which is broken, like a black box which either does or doesn't "work".

To create a desirable product, a marketeer has to remove the impression that their product is just a collection of assembled parts, and is in fact an object in and of itself. For some reason this creates desirability. I haven't quite figured out why we don't value the assembled nature of products over the finished form, but I don't think it's innate in human nature, I think it's a learnt response from society.

Regardless, this urge is the driver of an over consumptive society. My neighbour a few doors up has a lovely car. He's worked hard for it and deserves it. I don't begrudge him it, but what I don't understand is, that having worked hard, why would he want to spend that effort/money on a car which is after all only glass, metal, rubber and plastic folded into a shape which looks lovely. Why not cut a picture of the nice car out of a magazine, stick it on the fridge, buy a second hand car for a fraction of the cost, and take £100/week that the car probably costs in repayments worth of extra holiday to spend with his lovely family.

I am happy to admit that I am obsessive about the environmental impact of consumption, but that's down to having worked in manufacturing, which takes the shine off the desirable product-object concept, but secondly make me see the energy costs associated with any product, the heating to form plastic and metal, the transportation energy for supplies and distribution, the energy to extract and process the raw materials and the wastefulness that is inevitable with mass production and big industry.

It's also down to having spent so much time in Africa and seeing how life can function without all this crap that fills my home in London. One of the things I am looking forward to on this expedition is downsizing the space I have for stuff. Like an enforced vow of non consumption. I can't put up with broken suspension.

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