Matt\’s Cuppa

My take on tea, technology, and our environment

The Story Of Stuff Is A Must See Wake-Up Call

Posted by telecommatt on December 6, 2007

Thanks to Andy McCaskey‘s excellent Slashdot Review podcast, yesterday I ran across one of the best short film documentaries that I have ever seen. It’s called The Story of Stuff. It’s about twenty minutes long, and it will change the way that you look at every modern manufacturing marvel that you’ve ever owned.

In the film, Leonard walks us through the life cycle of the “stuff” that we buy. Sounds boring? Nope! There’s enough cynicism thrown in to keep people age twelve and up amused for the full twenty minutes. And it’s all done in cartoon, so that takes care of anyone under under twelve and any healthy adult male.

You can view the film directly from the website. If you’d rather know what you’re getting yourself into first, you can view a two minute YouTube preview here.

The “cycle” is something we’ve seen before in business or economics classes:

Extraction – Production – Distribution – Consumption – Disposal.

The difference is that Leonard focuses on what happens between each phase, because they don’t just fit neatly together like they do in the text books. For example, between the production and distribution phases, there’s a whole lot of industrial and manufacturing waste that has to be put someplace.

She also looks at the context in which all this takes place. And that is often the scarier picture. The film highlights dependencies that occur between people and the “stuff” cycle. Our whole economy is dependent on the idea of planned obsolescence, and we’ve managed to drag most of the world in with us. If they won’t ride in our wagon, we make them push.

A lot of the film is stuff that we already know. It’s simply draws our attention to the wider context. Contrary to what people steering our economy would like us to think, none of this happens in a vacuum. We live in a world of finite resources and we’re burning through those resources at an irresponsible rate. So next time you buy a radio, think about who really paid for it.

If that last line didn’t make sense, what the film.

I sincerely thank Annie Leonard and everyone else who helped put together the film and the website. It’s not a comfortable message, but it’s one that we all need to hear.

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