Story of Stuff

I had a look at Annie Leonard’s video, The Story of Stuff today and was amazed at some of the facts and figures and the perspective that she offers. She basically walks us through the cycle of the consumer economy and with a few digs at the US government and corporates shares the stark facts and figures of our current reality. A bit like a lesser researched “Inconvenient Truth”. She’s not going to win the Nobel Peace prize but she has done an excellent first take at simplifying the overall picture and showing how we contribute to the environmental challenges we now face.

At a point she mentions retailing analyst Victor Lebow who when talking about how to rebuild the American economy after world war two suggested, “Our enormously productive economy … demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption…. we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.”

At the time President Eisenhower’s council of economic advisors chairman stated: “The American economy’s ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods.” Not better health care, education, housing, transportation, or recreation or less poverty and hunger, but providing more stuff to consumers.

Not really surprising, we find ourselves where we are. It’s going to be fun if we all aspire to live like American’s although I think many of us have moved on over the last few years and raised our goals.

The video is beneficial for anyone wondering what all the fuss is about recycling and climate change and why we should be concerned about it as individuals. If you’re into this theme then you must have a look the book Hope for the Flowers written in 1972 by Trina Paulus. She does a magnificent job of illustrating the futility of the rat race.

As my friend Paddy says, “even if you win the rat race – you’re still a rat”

The Story of Stuff is available as a web stream or is downloadable from the web site.