NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

It’s Brave Friday! Learn about the consequences of overconsumption by watching The Story of Stuff today

If media hype is to be believed, the day after Thanks­giv­ing — which has come to be known as “Black Fri­day” — is a day when great deals can be had at the mall, and is there­fore an unbeat­able oppor­tu­ni­ty to go shop­ping.

Regard­less of whether the hype is jus­ti­fied or not, today is a good day to think about the envi­ron­men­tal cost and con­se­quences of our use it up and throw it out cul­ture, which is extreme­ly waste­ful and unsus­tain­able.

Activist Annie Leonard, who I had the plea­sure of meet­ing in per­son ear­li­er this year, has become one of the pro­gres­sive move­men­t’s best advo­cates for zero waste. In 2007, she wrote and nar­rat­ed an ani­mat­ed doc­u­men­tary, The Sto­ry of Stuff, which has been viewed by an esti­mat­ed twelve mil­lion peo­ple. The film’s suc­cess led to more films focus­ing on spe­cif­ic prod­ucts (the lat­est cat­e­go­ry being elec­tron­ics) and a book, also titled The Sto­ry of Stuff.

If you haven’t seen the orig­i­nal doc­u­men­tary, take a few moments to watch it now. It’s so well done that was con­demned by Glenn Beck and was the sub­ject of a cri­tique by the cor­po­rate-fund­ed Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute, which has received mon­ey from the likes of the Scaife Foun­da­tions, Exxon Mobil, the Ford Motor Com­pa­ny Fund, and Pfiz­er.

Unlike Glenn Beck, and unlike the hacks who work for Amer­i­ca’s major cor­po­ra­tions, Leonard has actu­al­ly trav­eled the world, explor­ing the extrac­tion, pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­b­u­tion, con­sump­tion, and dis­pos­al of stuff.

She’s more than just a sto­ry­teller; she’s an eye­wit­ness to one of the great­est prob­lems of our time. That’s what makes her films so pow­er­ful.

If you have seen The Sto­ry of Stuff before, watch it again with a friend or fam­i­ly mem­ber. It’s released under a Cre­ative Com­mons license, so you can down­load it and repro­duce it to your heart’s con­tent.

Put it on a USB flash dri­ve so you can share it with your friends when you’re away from your desk­top. Burn it to DVD and mail it to acquain­tances who have dialup Inter­net con­nec­tions. Or store it on your own serv­er if you have one.

It’s incred­i­bly impor­tant that the pro­gres­sive move­ment mas­ter the art of sto­ry­telling, so we can bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate our val­ues, prin­ci­ples, and pol­i­cy direc­tions to the Amer­i­can peo­ple. Annie Leonard has set the exam­ple for what we must do if we want to broad­en our reach and our impact.

Her work is incred­i­bly impor­tant and there’s no bet­ter time to share it than the hol­i­day sea­son, when Madi­son Street is in over­drive.

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