Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Why dumb things persist

 This is going to be a phenomenal journey as we reflect on the wonderful era we live in. I look forward to many more posts to share in my awe and wonder for the era we live in with the possibilities of innovation, and the improvement of life increasing exponentially. Yes,it is easy to be creative and to see the world in a new light.

But, I am not going to solve big issues with this post. I am starting with a more fundamental approach, to point out how popular thinking is not always favoring the soundest choice. Once we understand that, we can explore ways to remediate the deficit that keeps the soundest choices from being the favorite choices.

Let us start with roofing in the USA. Compared to many other industrialized countries, the USA is like many countries in one. This large integrated market creates opportunities everywhere. When one region struggles, many others might be thriving, so the chance to move is attractive. Supposedly most Americans move on average once every 7 years (ref.??). If we compare that with other countries where the likelihood is high that you will grow old with many of your school mates, we have to reflect on what the impact of this difference might be.

Let's cut to the chase... If I have to replace my roof, it is an expensive ordeal and as such I am motivated to do it as cheaply as possible, given that I will spend north of $10k already. That is why we come back to asphalt time and time. Why go expensive, when I am not going to live here 'for ever', so stick it to the next owner to replace the roof again in 20 or 30 years. So, we get the dumpster to pull off the old tiles, and off to the landfill with the old, and on with the new. Then between two and three decades later, we do it all over again. No wonder, there is a thriving roofing industry in America. Roofs are frequently replaced, and we are all caught up in this cycle.

When I was a child in Africa, a roofer was really attached to new construction. Then there was the handy man or plumber who would also fixe leaky roofs; that is if your dad was not the guy to get on the roof and find the spot himself and do the patching.  One thing I never ever saw, was a roof being replaced. Most homes had very strong corrugated tin roofs, a few had either slate tiles, or clay tiles. All these roofs were made to last a century or more as long as the minimal maintenance was done. So, there was no thriving industry in roofing. In fact, I never knew a roofer.

... this reminds me of another oddity in the USA. In South Africa, pumping your tires at the gas station was a free service, and the hose had a pressure meter attached by default. So, nobody ever needed to have their own pressure gauge. Just did not need it. ...come to America, and I go to check my tire pressure at the gas station. Well, you have to pay for air, and you will be lucky if it has a pressure gauge. So, go inside and buy your own, and support the thriving industry of selling pressure gauges. Wow, what a country! But, this is a small thing. Let's get back to roofing, that is a big thing and it is clear that leadership from government would be really nice to create a greener solution here.

I find that the thickness of metal roofs in the USA is another problem. Remember how soda cans were so thick, only really strong guys could crush such a can with their bare hands, but with the thin cans today, that is easy. Sadly, I see that the customer is being cheated again. Many metal roofs are so thin today, that you cannot walk on them. So, even though some are going for metal, you are not guaranteed a proper strong roof. 

I recall as a child, South Africa had the Bureau of Standards, and their seal told you the product was properly tested and you had quality. I find that in the USA, that mindset to set a bar of quality is not so strong, and if you look at plumbing for example, and you look at the faux-metal plastic faucets, you know that we are surfing the obsolescence culture again. Oh, where is the Bureau of Standards to do the 10 000 open and close tests on these faucets and to condemn them to save these inferior imports of junk from being sold and installed in the first place?

We have to look at legislation and wise governance to arrest the perpetuation of obsolescence and a firm appointment with the landfill.

Do not allow inferior products on the market. Take a queue from Europe, and insist on thinking more long term and the cost to the consumers and the cost to the environment. Making a quick buck with an inferior product and then forcing its replacement a few years later -- these folks must be friends with the scammers of the world. You and I need to spread this awareness to change our culture. It is happening in the food culture, now is the time to spread the long-term view to other consumer products.

And as an anecdote, I love the momentum behind the right to repair. Yes, yes, yes!

Why dumb things persist

 This is going to be a phenomenal journey as we reflect on the wonderful era we live in. I look forward to many more posts to share in my aw...