The Story of Stuff: Where It Comes From and Where It Goes

 As you know I’m interested in the environment and how our everyday practices impact it, so I’m always happy to see more people trying to raise awareness through creative means. A friend sent this link around the other day urging us to take the 20 minutes and watch the video. I’m going to do the same thing here.  Please, take a look at this video, watch it while you eat breakfast or watch it instead of your evening show, but really you’ll enjoy it, learn from it and be challenged by it. I know I was. I like the fact that its really well done, Annie, the host doesn’t brow beat anyone, she’s candid, has her facts straight and uses some fun and creative animation to help tell her story. Her story has a little more teeth to it than other enviro-films, in that she tackles production, marketing, consumption, waste as well as the politics behind this stuff. Here’s a teaser:


What’s also pretty cool about this site is that it’s set up to actually educate us and get some good resources into our hands about what we can do. She’s even got students responding to her work on YouTube, which adds another layer to the conversation. Once you watch the film feel free to discuss your impressions below.

For my own list of resources check out this post, see my ‘green‘ category or my delicious bookmarks.

6 responses to “The Story of Stuff: Where It Comes From and Where It Goes”

  1. Hey Wess,

    I sent this to a good friend in Washington,DC. She’s super smart, happens to work for the Brookings Institute. Anyway, she responded with some good “critical” thinking on this video. Good food for thought.

    Comments pasted below:

    1) We don’t spend over 50% of are tax dollars on defense it’s currently around 11-13% depending on if you factor in certain components of homeland security

    2) It’s pretty conspiratorial and “blamey??? – “it’s all the big corporations fault???, it’s all the governments fault for not “taking care of us??? – that attitude really disempowers our society as a whole.

    Big corporations, especially after WWII were catering to a public desire for nicer things, bigger families and an easier lifestyle, american society as a whole wanted this stuff, they were tired and exhausted by depression and war, and the generation of young parents, who had lived through the lean years of the 30s wanted to provide their families with everything that they didn’t have while growing up. Also, corporations (both big and small) exist to make a profit. The goal of capitalism is do be able to build up capital to invest in the future—all of those underlying “American freedoms??? of private property ownership and the legal rights of the individual are there to empower someone to make a living, and to make more then they actually consume so that they can reinvest it in the wellbeing of their business and their own wellbeing. The immigrant narrative of rags to riches which was both an overblown myth and a very firm reality for many many people lay the foundational elements of this in our culture and reaffirmed the principals of capitalism.

    So really, on a whole…I don’t think that Americans are conscientious enough in our consumption. Yes, we could consume less, even a good deal less, and I don’t think it would negatively impact our “way of life??? (if that is what we are looking at as really the greatest challenge to overcome). But its up to the consumer to make the changes that we want, it’s up to us to find a way to make making-money have less of an impact on what holds our planet together. I don’t completely balk at the video, because people have to be reminded to be responsible, we’re all naturally selfish and pretty lazy…not just Americans, but humans in general. We’re going to do what’s easiest and what is socially acceptable. Some of the facts that she’s throwing out there are blatantly wrong and its too emotionally charged for my personal taste—but for a population who (on a wide scale, beyond our own yuppy-granola circles) hasn’t truly been presented with an impetus to change what’s “socially acceptable??? (which is what changes group behavior in the long term)…it’s not a bad gig ;o)

  2. I started to write a blog post which included a link to The Story of Stuff about 6 months ago…maybe I’ll finish it. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. @Holly – Thanks for the critical comments. I thought that the statistic on war seemed high but I wasn’t aware of the actual numbers.

    I’m not sure I see it as completely “blamey,” and yet on the other hand I do think there are people to blame – corporations and government being a big part of this. But you’re right that it’s not just corporations and the government, it’s largely us, the people who make up those corporations and the government. I thought Annie actually did address pretty well the responsibility of the consumer in this? Am I missing something?

    I found her arguments to be more directed at the consumer than Gore’s film was, which I also found to be very provoking and insightful. I walked away from the video thinking, wow we really need to consume less, and be more aware of where this all comes from (as you suggested as well). So, I’m not sure I see a lack of attention in this direction.

    But if you focus solely on responsible shopping, I think you’re still working within the logic of capitalism and I personally think that it is this logic that forms people in a way that really does keep people from breaking out of this system of economic exchange.

    I basically agree with what you said here,

    “But its up to the consumer to make the changes that we want, it’s up to us to find a way to make making-money have less of an impact on what holds our planet together.”

    Yet my point is that the consumers will not want to make the changes because of the way we are being formed within the system. I don’t think that there is room within the “logic” to fully change the system. That is to say I don’t think if we just throw out all our items that have flame retardants on them and replace them with organic items that we’ve really done anything to actually change the system, which is a large part of the problem.
    Yet, on the other hand, I do see things like the internet making space for a more democratized capitalism, where sharing, participation and niche markets may have more of a chance to actually make some kind of an impact on the consequences we are now experiencing.

    @Dan – you should definitely do that post. You’re way ahead of the game on knowing about this!

    @Johnny, same here. Have you looked at the resources on consumption, there’s some helpful links there that may help expand the section a little.

  4. Thanks for the link, Wess. I, too, wondered about some of the statistics, but definitely agreed completely with her main conclusions.

    We (Mel and I) have been talking about composting for way too long and not doing it — watching this got us convinced that we have no choice but to start.