Freedom to Repair
Climate justice is a kitchen table issue.
America will soon be exploring and discussing long over due, overly “bipartisan” infrastructure legislation. Climate justice will play a role. Like mask wearing and vaccination, the debate over infrastructure, the benefit of which is a “no-brainer” will become “politicized.” Pro fossil fuel energy lobbyists will be crowding the Senate Office Building corridors. There may be a Sunrise Movement counter protest. Greta will be watching.
In the scramble for cable TV camera space, what may be overlooked in the infrastructure debate is the ‘freedom to repair.’ Several nations in the EU and 32 states in the US assert that if a consumer is unable to repair a manufactured item, the manufacturer — not the consumer — must pay. A salient part of the legislation is that the manufacturer/importer must guarantee availability of parts requiring replacing. The theory behind this economic reckoning is the social and environmental cost of “conspicuous consumption,” the consumption of goods and energies that are frivolous and avoidable. The theory behind this ethical reckoning is the pass along cost to the habitant of being unable to repair and maintain one’s immediate environment.
You ask, what does “freedom to repair,” have to do with infrastructure legislation? Lots, If one contemplates a “local infrastructure” made of manufactured items, the end result of a process of supplying and living with consumables.
Local consumption does not stop at check-out. There is the afterburn of landfills, packaging detritus, and excessive transporting, to name a few. Think a reusable water bottle versus a recyclable container which is not disposed of appropriately. The reusable water bottle in the era of kitchen table climate justice demands protection; it’s benefactor demands protection, too.
You ask, who absorbs the added cost of repairable, self-sustaining consumer “products?”
Cost-wise, recycling and repairing are “win-wins.’” First, the life cycle of the product increases over time — less cost. Second, jobs are created, supplanting the increase in efficiency. A factory repair/maintenance service industry is nourished. Third, product quality increases, reducing cost. And all this before we get to accounting environmental impact.
As we emerge into the infrastructure discussion, consider that passage of climate justice initiatives like the right to repair is not a matter of how or when, but what.