Why Fixing Your Phone Is One of the Most Empowering Things You Can Do
By Kyle Wiens
Like most people, I don't go anywhere without my phone. In the morning, its shrill alarm rouses me from sleep. During the day it bobs between my ear, my hand and my pocket. At night, I hunt for Pokémon before putting it away on the nightstand. My phone is my MP3 player, my camera and my GPS system—all in one. I really believe that technology is a driving force for good in the world. It makes our lives better.
I've spent the last decade teaching people how to repair their electronics—things like smartphones, computers and tablets. I do it because even though we love our gizmos, we treat them like they're disposable—things we can use up, throw away and buy again without a second thought.
Fred Dott / Greenpeace
Today people go through smartphones like they go through jeans—at the rate of one new phone every 24 months or so in the U.S. A good laptop can be useful for more than five years, but the battery only lasts about two years. And a recent study in Germany found that the lifespan of consumer electronics is getting shorter. Why? Because our stuff breaks more quickly, we tire of it more easily and we're more eager to upgrade before it's necessary.
That's a Huge Problem
Phones, laptops, tablets and TV are some of the most energy and resource heavy products we know how to make. Manufacturing a single microchip requires 2,200 gallons of water—and a computer is packed with dozens of chips. Of the 118 elements on the periodic table, 40 of them find their way into our electronics.
That's 40 natural resources that are often sourced from regions with questionable environmental regulations and little protection for workers. All for gadgets that we use for a few years before tossing away.
A small Chinese child sitting among cables and e-waste, Guiyu, China. Much of modern electronic equipment contains toxic ingredients.Natalie Behring / Greenpeace
In 2012, the world produced 48.9 million metric tons of e-waste. That's about 15.4 pounds (7kg) for every person on Earth. By next year, the United Nations expects the yearly rate of e-waste to rise to 65.4 million tons—an increase of 33 percent.
The Greenest Gadget is Probably the One You Already Have…
More stuff isn't the answer. Every time someone repairs their phone instead of upgrading to a new one, that's one less phone that needs to be manufactured. Every time someone opens up their laptop and replaces the battery, they're doing something tangible to reduce e-waste.
My company iFixit helps millions of people around the world fix their stuff—for free—every single year. Often, the people we teach have never repaired anything before in their lives. They're nervous to open up their gadgets. They're scared they'll mess something up. And they're worried that they're not allowed to fix their gizmos on their own.
But they can. And they do. I've seen moms fixing iPhones for their kids, and those kids in turn fix their grandparent's computer. That experience—bringing something that was broken back from the dead—is incredibly empowering.
You become something more than just a consumer. Something different. Something better. You're a fixer. And armed with a screwdriver and a repair manual, you can fix the world—one broken gadget at a time.
Ricardo Padilla Roman / Greenpeace
Want to Fix the World? Here Are Four Easy Things You Can Do:
- Do your first repair: Check out some tutorials for popular devices and our whole tutorial database here. (Check out below two video tutorials to replace iPhone and Samsung screens.)
- Dig the electronics out your junk drawers: Even if the gadget doesn't turn on anymore, swapping out the dead battery in something like a cell phone is probably easier—and cheaper—than you think.
- Upgrade your computer. If your laptop starts to slow down, give it a little TLC. More often than not, a new battery, more memory and a larger hard drive will make your ailing computer as good as new again.
- Buy repairable products. Keep durability and repairability in mind as you make shopping decisions. Don't buy electronics that are designed to be disposable. Look for products with user-replaceable batteries, a steady supply of replacement parts and easy-to-upgrade components.
Kyle Wiens is the founder and CEO of iFixit, an online repair community and parts retailer internationally renowned for their open resource repair manuals and product teardowns.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.