There’s no shortage of technological innovations that existed in the pages of a Science Fiction novel long before they existed in real life.

Augmented reality is straight from the books of William Gibson
Submarines from Jules Verne
Satellites from Arthur C. Clarke
– the list could go on and on.

Anyone that’s read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy would expect their iPhone/iPad to have the words “Don’t Panic” stamped on them.

I’ve just started reading Containment by Christian Cantrell (eBook for $1.16 here, or free here) and came across the concept of ELP’s or End of Life Plans:

[the] concept of “End of Life Plans,” or ELPs, was adopted by most of the industrialized world. ELPs were simply instructions included with absolutely everything bought or sold that explained what should be done with the item and its packaging in order to discard it. There were, of course, strict guidelines as to what constituted a valid ELP, and strict oversight of those guidelines. Legitimate ELPs included things like returning the item to the manufacturer where it could be refurbished, dropping the item off at a local ELP station which specialized in recycling its components, or, if the material were benign enough, the right colored bin to toss it into.

Consumer adherence to ELPs was also strictly enforced. Anyone caught violating an item’s ELP faced fines or community service, and sometimes even very imaginative forms of public punishment involving bright green jumpsuits or yard signs with short shameful slogans. No item could be bought, sold, or imported without a valid and approved ELP which meant that even countries that weren’t particularly interested in saving the world needed to comply in order to have access to markets that did. Consumers started selecting products based on the attractiveness of their ELPs which meant that as much thought and engineering had to go into the disposing of a product as producing it. Products that weren’t easily recyclable, reusable, returnable, renewable, compostable, convertible, or biodegradable languished on shelves beside their more eco-friendly counterparts. People wanted to feel as good about getting rid of something as they did about acquiring it.

It goes on

It was initially feared that ELPs would ruin the already-fragile world economy. The theory was that raising costs associated with research and development would cause the prices of goods to increase beyond what the market could bear. In reality, however, ELPs ushered in an entirely new era of sustainable economic growth and prosperity.

Even the sharpest and best paid economists underestimated the guilt that the media had gradually installed in consumers for buying goods that were designed to exist in landfills for centuries, but only function for anywhere from a few seconds up to maybe a year. It was true that prices rose, but temporarily; costs were more than offset by the dynamics of guilt-free consumption, and by manufacturers’ ability to refurbish and resell end-of-lifed goods. Entirely new industries sprang up around ELP stations.

Manufacturing costs gradually decreased as more recycled components were used and fewer raw materials had to be purchased and converted. Many manufacturers transitioned into what became known as re-manufacturers. The quality of products even increased so that their components could be reused in future versions. It was common for electronics manufacturers to build very fast processors for their devices, but underclock them so that when they found their way back into their factories through their ELPs, the chips’ constraints could simply be removed, and the entire device resold as the next generation, new and improved. ELPs allowed even the biggest and most powerful of multinational corporations to participate in sustainable and responsible manufacturing practices while still feeling like they were being suitably devious.

To me this seems a great idea to help combat global warming. It doesn’t even require any new technology, just political will.

You thoughts?

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