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The story of stuff

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of the of the ‘ The Story of Stuff’ Introduction The Story of Stuff is a well known documentary by Annie Leonard. In it, the author claims that we are fast running out of options due to overconsumption of the Earth’s resources, and that one way we will be wiped out or our very survival will be threatened if we continue to abuse and overuse natural and man-made resources in this way. It is a well directed and eye opening critique of the ‘ materials economy’ (Leonard, 1). Discussion Basing her discussion on the well known cycle of (1) Extraction to (2) Production to (3) Distribution to (4) Consumption to (5) Disposal, and taking them one by one, Leonard points out the inefficiencies in this system at every stage. In order to shock the reader into realizing the severity of the problems, the author has interspersed her discussion with some rather startling facts. For example she rightly says that the Government has failed in its responsibility to provide safety and security for its citizens. She maintains that out of the world’s 100 largest economies, 51 percent are corporations and 49 percent are countries. This fact has been stated by Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh in their report entitled ‘ Top 200: The Rise of the Corporate Global Power’ in which they compared the size and power of international corporate entities to the Governments of nations. What hope can Governments and people then have to save themselves from the caprices of corporations? In fact instances of Government lobbying on the part of corporations and their donations are so common that many people have simply given up thinking in the power of Government to reform society according to idealistic principles. That is why you see a low turnout on any election day. Leonard also maintains that in the last three decades, we have used up as much as one-third of the Earth’s resources (Hawkins, Lovins & Lovins, 4). The Global Footprint Network found that in 2003, “ Humanity’s Footprint exceeded the Earth’s Biological Capacity by over 25 percent” (Harris, 1). The reason for such overuse of resources is that we are being led down the path of overconsumption by corporations who want us to buy things again and again through the means of planned obsolescence or perceived obsolescence (Taylor & Tilford, 467). While planned obsolescence is engineered into the limited durability of a product like a television set, perceived obsolescence is created in our minds through technology and fashion. We all want the latest mobile sets- no matter if we use or even know how to use half the functions on it regularly. This mindset, developed after the Second World War, shifted the concentration of corporations from producing long lasting, quality and durable products to products that had a limited useful life- just enough to last till the next new technology came along. It was the birth of consumerism and the materials economy. The average US consumer spends 3-4 more times in hours shopping than his European counterpart (Cross, 192). Conclusion The author has made some very valid points and this video documentary has been viral over cyberspace for quite some time. However despite all her good intentions, it seems we cannot stem the tide that consumerism and advertising has created. Works Cited Cross, G. Time and Money, 1993, p192. Harris, F. Global Environmental Issues, 2004. Hawken, P.; Lovins, A. & Lovins, L. H. Natural Capitalism. Little Brown and Company, 1999, pg 4. Leonard, A. The Story of Stuff, 2002. Taylor, B. & Tilford, D. “ Why Consumption Matters” in ‘ The Consumer Society Reader’ edited by Juliet B Schor & Douglas Holt, 2000, p. 467.

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