Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Story of Stuff

First, a bit of a goof on globalism that we pulled together back in the old SPR days. While our low-fi comedic ramblings may or may not be that funny, I am still constantly shocked at how much cheap, disposable stuff you can buy in New York, and how the economics of extraction, production, labor, and transport can scale to make a $3 umbrella a viable product.

With that silly context setting, I'd urge you to check out this animated movie "The Story of Stuff," which Professor ND forwarded to me. Annie Leonard touches on a number of powerful themes, that I think are constantly missed in public dialog about sustainability, civic responsibility, and the power that people have, as consumers, in influencing their world. Specifically, I think that while a lot of people feel trapped and fed-up with our consumerist culture -- the need to buy, the lack of durability of products, a keeping up with the Joneses mentality -- and I think Leonard does a good job articulating that, while you may feel trapped, there is a legitimate choice you can make, to opt out of the cycle of consumerism. Secondly, it is important to frame the materials economy as a cycle, recognizing that the choices that are made - by consumers, by politicians, by business people - all have impacts both upstream and downstream in the cycle. Positive choices can be amplified to be even more positive, and unfortunately, the same holds true for choices with negative consequences.

While I am not always enamored by the slight shrillness of people who are active advocates in the sustainability movement, and some of that occasionally bubbles to the surface in this video, I think, in general, The Story of Stuff is a very thoughtful and engaging overview of our consumer-driven materialist culture, and should be broadly forwarded, to people who care about these issues, and probably more importantly, to people who may not know to care about them.

Additional resources worth checking out:

Free Range Studios - the design firm responsible for the production of The Story of Stuff, who apparently have a very cool charter.
The Center for the New American Dream - I haven't kept close tabs on this non-profit, but when I was paying more attention five or six years ago, they were doing a great job communicating how the objectives of adopting a more sustainable lifestyle were very much aligned with quality of life aspirations that are core to the classic "American Dream"
The Global Footprint Network - Another non-profit that focuses on trying to raise the public and political awareness of how the material flows in our economy, driven by consumerism, impact global sustainability.

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