The Story of Stuff


Here’s something that got me thinking:

The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns, with a special focus on the United States. All the stuff in our lives, beginning from the extraction of the resources to make it, through its production, sale, use and disposal, affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues and calls for all of us to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something. It’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Naturally, the topic is far from new to GlobaLab. I have been looking at the political economy of globalisation for months now. I agree with many of this movie’s positions, and love its simple and entertaining tone. Well done to Annie Leonard and to all those involved for translating into an easily-graspable short film some of the complexities of the global economy, particularly the commodity chains that form the backbone of world trade.

Yet, I can’t help pointing out: it’s not that simple. Describing the problem as one of ever-collapsing natural resources and abused Third World workers fighting the evil and conspiratorial plans of multinational corporations with the help of selfless international NGOs might look good on film, but is it an actual reflection of the real world?

I am not a great admirer of corporations, or a blind believer in the transparency of their CSR policies, but branding them all as Earth-destructors does not do justice to the good many of them do (in terms of job-creation, economic growth, research into innovation – including into clean energy), nor will it help change the way they behave.

And similarly, the omnipresent sanctification of NGOs fails to disclose their deep accountability limits and underlying political interests. According to One World, the NGO sector scores lower than the corporate and intergovernmental sectors when it comes to transparency, so it is legitimate to question many of their claims, especially their Doomsday positions on the environment and development.

But on one point I fully agree: consumerism lies at the centre of this system, so if we want to change it we have to start thinking of creative ways to change people’s attitude towards stuff…

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6 responses to “The Story of Stuff

  1. You know, these people are so well intentioned and this is soooooo totally unhelpful for a real discussion on sustainability; I don’t have words. Let’s treat all people who are getting introduced to these issues and treat them like total morons. I was reminded of when I was five watching Sesame Street.

  2. You are quite right to highlight the “deep accountability limits and underlying political interests” of NGOs – particularly those working in international development.

    I’ve got a whole blog devoted to it here:
    http://thatsthewaythemoneygoes.blogspot.com/

  3. Is this one true?

  4. A lot of whatever you say happens to be astonishingly legitimate and it makes me ponder the reason why I hadn’t looked at this in this light before. This particular article really did switch the light on for me personally as far as this specific subject goes. However at this time there is actually 1 point I am not too cozy with so whilst I make an effort to reconcile that with the actual central theme of your point, let me observe exactly what the rest of the subscribers have to say.Nicely done.

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  6. Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular post!
    It is the little changes that will make the largest changes.
    Thanks a lot for sharing!

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