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Fixing for the future

7 October, 2022

Maintenance is a thankless task: carving out the time or money to ensure that your house, bike or car is more resilient in the face of issues that haven’t yet appeared. But it could also be an essential tool in fight against climate change.

That was the conclusion of a very interesting and far-reaching article we came across this week which we’d strongly recommend. Its starting point is that we have an ‘out with the old, in with the new’ approach to progress that means our vast quantity of infrastructure gets replaced over short timescales, sometimes even under the guise of sustainability. But the reality is that lots of these things can last longer than they do. And while well-maintained diesel cars and concrete skyscrapers aren’t exactly the vision of a sustainable utopia, working with what we have complements progress through new innovations.

Part of the reason we find ourselves where we are is that current economics tend not to favour maintenance: where raw materials are cheap relative to labour, the linear economy is often cheaper than the circular one. This issue adds another compelling point in favour of carbon taxation, which would methodically disincentivise this environmentally nonsensical approach that pays no regard to the whole lifecycle impact of goods.

Meanwhile, the article levels an interesting criticism of sustainability: that we focus too much on end states such as net zero and often find ourselves short of the tools and processes to get us there. Of course we need the high-level concepts like net zero, but we can often fall short on the specific concepts and processes that will get us there.

Maintenance may well be a defining concept in the transition to sustainability and this article is a great place to start exploring it in more detail. It’s time to dig out the tools and cleaning products and embrace the future of sustainability.

By Patrick Bapty

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