22 July 2010

the story of stuff

Annie Leonard the author of The Story of Stuff tells us the story of how excessive materialism is hurting the planet and affecting our happiness. The Story of Stuff Project's mission to educate and transform the way people use things and make them more aware of where things come from. The underlying message is that when you start examining the whole life-cycle of stuff, you begin to realize how environmentally harmful many of the things you use can be.

After the success of the 20 minute web film entitled 'Story of Stuff' where Annie does a detailed LCA of where stuff comes from and where they go, she has done several other short films. She has done a video of Story of Cap and Trade, Bottled Water and most recently Story of Cosmetics.

The Cap and Trade story talks about why it is not the solution to reduce carbon emissions and why people should not buy into it. This is the simplest explanation of C&T that I have come across and would recommend the video for anyone who wishes to understand what it is. The Story of Bottled Water is rather poignant because it talks about the globalization of trash. Annie mentions how plastic water bottles that are manufactured in America end up in landfills in Madras, India. Pollution outsourcing anyone??

The story of cosmetics was done in conjunction with the Safe Cosmetics Campaign and highlights many of the things that I talked about in my earlier post about cosmetics. Annie's environmentalism was sparked when she visited a landfill in Staten Island when she was in college and saw with her own eyes, the effects of consumerism. Reading Annie's article on abcnews gives a detailed picture of how her upbringing and her 20 years of research shaped her into the 'systems thinker' that she is today.

Thinking about the environment requires this kind of brain-power. It requires knowledge of free-market economics, marketing, manufacture of products etc to know that consumerism is a phenomenon that is not innately human but it is a learned behaviour that has been reinforced by marketing strategies to make consumers dependent on the cycle of use and throw. Why is this done? - to ensure that manufacturers can carry on with 'business as usual' i.e., make more stuff so people can buy more stuff. This the basis of economy - "manufactured demand" which pushes what we don't need and destroys what we need the most.

The story of stuff is powerful in its message and a consolidation of painstaking research into an easy to understand video. So watch and learn. The next time you buy something really ask yourself whether you need it.

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