As a company summary puts it, "Pyramids of Waste (2010) also known as 'The lightbulb conspiracy' is a documentary about how our economic system based on consumerism and planned obsolescence is breaking our planet down."
While this documentary was aired on European TV channels a year or so ago as an ARTE production, it has also started doing the film festival circuit, and so in recent weeks has gained renewed attention, or indeed new attention, as in North America...
The documentary itself, standard 53 min version with English narration: here Alternative version with English subtitles throughout: here Longer version (1 hour 15 min) in German
Once upon a time..... products were made to last. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: 'A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business' (1928). Thus Planned Obsolescence was born.Shortly after, the first worldwide cartel was set up expressly to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb, a symbol for innovation and bright new ideas, and the first official victim of Planned Obsolescence. During the 1950s, with the birth of the consumer society, the concept took on a whole new meaning, as explained by flamboyant designer Brooks Stevens: 'Planned Obsolescence, the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary...'. The growth society flourished, everybody had everything, the waste was piling up (preferably far away in illegal dumps in the Third World) - until consumers started rebelling... The current throwaway climate - where the latest technology is outdated after a year and electronics are cheaper to replace than to repair – is the basis for economic growth. But infinite consumption is unsustainable with finite resources: With the economy crumbling and consumers becoming increasingly resistant to the practice, has planned obsolescence reached the end of its own life? Combining investigative research and rare archive footage with analysis by those working on ways to save both the economy and the environment, this documentary charts the creation of ‘engineering to fail’, its rise to prominence and its recent fall from grace.DOXA Festival (more below) review biography:
Cosima Dannoritzer is a filmmaker specializing in history and ecology who has worked for broadcasters in the UK, Germany and Spain.Her previous films include: Re-Building Berlin (Channel 4, U.K., 1992, Journalism Prize of the Anglo-German Society 1993), Germany Inside Out (BBC, U.K. / YLE, Finland, 2001), If Rubbish Could Speak (TVE, Spain, 2003, awards from 'Ekotopfilm' and The'Green Vision Film Festival') Electronic Amnesia (TVE, Spain, 2006)Extensive interview with Cosima Dannoritzer about the documentary, in German Another online TV discussion about the documentary and planned obsolescence can be seen here, Arte TV, choice of French or German. (thank you to Peter at Gluehbirne.ist.org for this) Other written interview in German, with "BP" magazine (source)
An earlier March 2011 review from Apfelkraut.org
Planned obsolescence subject of Light Bulb Conspiracy documentaryGiles Slade served as one of the filmmaker's first points of reference. Slade wrote a book on the topic in 2006: Made To Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America.In an e-mail, Dannoritzer said her idea of making the film dates to her childhood. She remembers her mother, in the 1970s, trying in vain to get spare parts for a broken appliance. "That's when I heard the word 'planned obsolescence' for the first time. Then, a few years ago, I filmed a huge stack of discarded computers in a recycling plant and started wondering how broken they really were, and read all these crazy conspiracy theories about eternal light bulbs and everlasting cars on the Internet."In 2007, she began probing deeper and interviewed Slade in New York for a few scenes in the documentary. "Book and film have several things in common, but readers of the book can get new stories from the book which are not in the film, and get new stories from the film which are not in the book," said Dannoritzer. The 2010 film centres on a plan among light bulb manufacturers to create short-lasting products in order to increase profits. The film also uncovers the story of an American fire station with an old-fashioned light bulb that's been working for decades and the quest of one man to fix a printer that others suggest he throws out. The untold story of planned obsolescenceDid you know that the lifetime of light bulbs once used to last for more than 2500 hours and was reduced – on purpose – to just 1000 hours?Did you know that nylon stockings once used to be that stable that you could even use them as tow rope for cars and its quality was reduced just to make sure that you will soon need a new one?Did you know that you might have a tiny little chip inside your printer that was just placed there so that your device will “break” after a predefined number of printed pages thereby assuring that you buy a new one?Did you know that Apple originally did not intend to offer any battery exchange service for their iPods/iPhones/iPads just to enable you to continuously contribute to the growth of this corporation? This strategy was maybe first thought through already in the 19th century and later on for example motivated by Bernhard London in 1932 in his paper “Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence”. The intentional design and manufacturing of products with a limited lifespan to assure repeated purchases is denoted as “planned/programmed obsolescence” and we are all or at least most of us upright and thoroughly participating in this doubtful endeavor.Or did you not recently think about buying a new mobile phone / computer / car / clothes / … because your old one unexpectedly died or just because of this very cool new feature that you oh so badly need? A really well done documentary that provides a comprehensive overview about and a detailed insight into this topic recently aired on Arte and other European television networks. It is entitled “The Light Bulb Conspiracy – The untold story of planned obsolescence” (aka “Pyramids of Waste”, DE: “Kaufen für die Müllhalde”, FR: “Prêt à jeter”, ES: “Comprar, tirar, comprar”) and is a French/Spanish production directed by Cosima Dannoritzer.Recordings of the movie have been uploaded to various video portals, for example currently available on YouTube in EN/International with Norwegian subtitles, DE, FR and ES. Just the official TV and Internet broadcasts were viewed by over 2,500,000 people. If you like to follow up on some of the documentary’s content, here are the links: The light bulb at the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department can be watched here via web cam. Wikipedia has some more information on the Phoebus cartel in English and German. The referenced clip about the tremendous waste of ink by inkjet printers can be found at Atomic Shrimp: “The Dirty Little Secret Of Inkjet Printers”. The software to reset the page counter of various Epson printers can be found here: SSC Service Utility for Epson Stylus Printers. The people that made “iPod’s Dirty Secret” are the Neistat Brothers. The tough guy from Ghana that collects evidences at the dumping grounds to identify the orignators of electric waste is Mike Anane and he also contributed to the report “Poisoning the poor – Electronic waste in Ghana” issued by Greenpeace. That planned obsolescence may be needed or even is substantial to appease the ever-growing hunger to achieve continuous and distinct economic growth that is natural to nations with advanced economies aka developed (?) countries is one part. The past and present is comprised of numerous advocates and supporters with well-engineered argumentations in favor of this business strategy. But even the ultimate argument gets immediately and indisputably absurd and unreasonable when it comes to the thereby produced waste – the other part of planned obsolescence.“The Light Bulb Conspiracy” quite clearly showed where this leads to and especially where all the resulting waste is dumped. Let’s keep that in mind while impatiently waiting for the release of the next generation of the iPhone …