Wherein Apple pisses me off…

The event is actually kinda old, and normally I wouldn’t comment on something like this, but it’s St. Padraig’s Day so I’m allowed to get my Irish up. At an Apple shareholder meeting, a conservative think tank NCPPR proposed a motion that Apple not “pursue environmental initiatives unless they helped increase profit” (see here for more details). Cook’s response was basically “if you don’t like it, get out of our stock”.

Cards on the table: I believe climate change is happening, though I believe that if there were zero people on the planet climate change would also be happening. While I don’t believe the “science is settled”, there does seem to be ample evidence that human activity does affect climate. I decry that the issue has devolved into a political pissing match instead of a chance to collaborate on the common sense measures we can agree on.

I’m not impressed by NCPPR. This sort of grandstanding is worse than useless; not only do they not really have a point, they are making it harder for folks who would like to slow down the hype and have a sane conversation.

Nor am I impressed by Tim Cook. Like it or not, anyone can become a part owner of any public company; the management of a public company is beholden to the stockholders, which means potentially anybody. I doubt Cook minded this system as his stock options have increased in value fifteen-fold in his time at Apple…now he gets the smelly end of the plunger. He has plenty of cash with which to dry his tears.

I never would have commented about this if this is where it had stopped…but this weekend I had an iExperience with a former iPod. My sisters are big fans of Apple technology, and between them they regularly upgrade…the old devices go to my kids. This is fine as far as it goes; my kids get angry when I refuse to support the devices, and they fight with each other over who gets which device, but that’s not really Apple’s fault.

But here’s what is Apple’s fault. One of the recent hand-me-downs had not been charged in quite a while. With typical teenage hyperbole my son claims 5 or 6 years, but the model has only been out for four, and neither of my sisters is the type that camps outside the store on release day…let’s say a year. Tried to charge it…battery is dead. OK let’s replace the battery. Oh yeah, you can’t. So what do we have? A thin brick. Where will it end up? The landfill.

Since the days of the Macintosh, and even more severely in the iPod lines, obsolescence has been designed into Apple products. The drumbeat to upgrade is relentless. And sure they have a recycling program, where you may get…wait for it…an Apple gift card! Then you give up the device, which has all of your passwords and account information stored on it, and it gets sent to…good question. How secure is that supply chain?

In isolation the designed obsolescence bothers me, but I accept it as the modern condition. But what galls the bejeesus out of me is that the same individual who’s barbering on about his pet environmental initiatives leads a company where creating garbage is part of the business strategy.

I have no problem with Apple wanting to use 100% sustainable green energy. And if the majority of stockholders support that position, even if it is not “profitable”, great for them…NCPPR bought the stock knowing this was the company position. But dammit don’t be a hypocrite…nothing about the stuff Apple actually sells is sustainable at all.

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