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Film Review: Pyramids of Waste – The Lightbulb Conspiracy (2010)

The Lightbulb Conspiracy

There have been many great documentaries coming out in the past few years that focus our awareness on the unsustainable processes operating within our cultures, societies, and economies. One of these is Pyramids of Waste, also called The Lightbulb Conspiracy. This film tells the untold story of something called “planned obsolescence”. which is  the deliberate shortening of product’s life span by manufacturers in order to guarantee continuous consumer demand. This endless growth model is unsustainable on a finite planet with finite resources such as ours and this documentary shows the necessity for a radical shift in how we perceive growth and progress.

This documentary focuses on the self-imposed mandate by businesses since the 1920s to purposely shorten the life-spans of the products they manufacture and sell. As they put it, the product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business and a tragedy for the modern growth society, which relies on an ever-accelerating cycle of production, consumption and throwing away. This shows the short-term mentality that many are prone to, without thinking about the inevitable long-term consequences for such a mindset. Pollution (which ties into the destruction of the environment) is perhaps the greatest reality as a result of this business model, and its effects are very easily seen everywhere you go. There seems to be trash everywhere you look…even where not a single person can be found, such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

This documentary is great in that it combines investigative research as well as rare archive footage in order to unveil how planned obsolescence had first begun. It takes the viewer on a trip from the 1920s with a secret cartel, set up expressly to limit the life span of light bulbs, to the present-day, with stories involving the latest electronics (such as the iPod). It culminates with the showcasing of individuals and groups that have within themselves the “growing spirit of resistance” against the unsustainable and unethical practices conducted by businesses all around the world today.

Pyramids of Waste is the story of companies that engineer their products to fail. It shows how a “throwaway culture” was created almost a century ago and demonstrates that this is not only an unsustainable practice, but also one that is unethical. It’s definitely a film worth seeing, especially if one did not know about the intentional production of inferior products by many businesses today.

Watch the film here: http://www.vimeo.com/17750184

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