Consumerism: The Story of Stuff

Fellow blogger, Omar, wrote a wonderful post the other day gently pointing out the crazy consumerism of Canadians. Thoughts from a Saturday Trip to the Store reminded me of this educational and eye-opening video I had seen several years ago called The Story of Stuff. I thought I would post it here for you to see. Have a look at Omar’s post to get you in the right frame of mind and then grab a cup of fairly traded coffee in a reusable mug and watch the video. Believe me, it’s worth the 20 minutes.

I would love to read your thoughts on it. Please comment!

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20 thoughts on “Consumerism: The Story of Stuff

  1. I wonder how much energy it took up for me to turn on the computer and watch this video (which looks like it was uploaded from from one of those ‘evil’ corporations, YouTube), or maybe how much energy was used up while you had your computer on to take the time to post it. Not to mention the energy it took to film it. And as for those trees that the video makes it sounds like we’re just ravaging away from other countries, many of them are cut down by local loggers who use that industry as a source of income to feed their children in a place where formal education and better paying jobs are not available. Is this woman implying we should put these people out of work and let their children starve for the sake of a rare species of ant inhabiting these forests? Also, brominated flame retardants are generally made of organic materials, not to mention they are used heavily in computer and electronic manufacturing. Any toxins that pose a threat in BFR’s are generally to water living things, and not to humans. Yes, you can develop an allergy, but you can develop an allergy to almost anything. And if she’s so afraid of them, she shouldn’t be using the computers she’s using as the medium for her soapbox.

    And please, she’s acting like we impose ourselves on countries that we ravage with pollution. You think that those people would rather be rice farming for pennies a day to barely sustain life or industrializing their nation? It is a matter of fact that increasing industrialization is key in bringing about a better standard of living, and yes it may get off to a rocky start, but you have to start somewhere in developing countries.

    Furthermore “I walked in to Radioshack to buy a radio” invalidates her whole stance against consumerism. My ipod acts as a radio and she didn’t seem to care for that too much at the beginning of the film, so what makes her little radio so high and mighty? And if you like paying six bucks for a latte that’s great, but when she pulls her head out of the clouds and realizes that most people in this country rely on large discount chains to provide them with less costly foods or their diets would be nutritionally void she’s going to be VERY disappointed. Increasing cancer rates and loss of land do not account for markup price, they have no monetary value, where she got this idea, who knows.

    And yes, Bush told people to shop. They were depressed, they weren’t leaving the house. You know what a gigantic hit to the economy that is? That’s BASIC econ 101. Maybe we should have all just locked ourselves inside and cried for the world, because grieving would have fixed the economic downturn right? I’m sure to this woman it would have since she seems to think tears have monetary value. You can’t pay your mortgage with tears, hope, and happy thoughts (sorry to disappoint).

    Clearly this woman is also insecure about the way she looks, I’m really sorry that she’s offended by a good pair of Manolo’s or a fabulous pair of Jimmy Choo’s but if you walk in to any major shoe store they will always carry both stiletto and wedge heels. Every year. Year in, and year out. Point is totally null and void. If she feels like that makes her looks out of place, that’s something she needs to see someone about because I promise you the rest of the world doesn’t care if she’s sporting a cork wedge, and the people that do care, don’t matter. If she feels like all those ads she’s watching are making her feel ‘wrong’ about something, she’s completely diagnosable.

    Thank God there are people out there that don’t buy what this woman is trying to sell or we wouldn’t have things like insulin, the polio vaccine, global communications, and we’d all be living in fear of the plague. This video is possibly the most pretentious, ignorant thing I’ve ever seen.

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    1. Thank you for your comment, Southern Cenerentola, and welcome to my blog. I did ask for opinions and I’m glad you gave yours. I don’t agree, though, that the video is ignorant. I think one might consider it basic but sometimes in order to get a point across, basic is necessary. It’s overall message, that our way of life is unsustainable is what’s important. You can bicker, perhaps, with some of her points, but overall it is accurate. People are living beyond their means, using up resources at an astronomical rate, and absorbing more chemicals than ever before. One of the biggest problems is that up and coming world super-powers, China and India, also want to join in (and already have started) on our way of life. Not that I would ever suggest that people don’t have a right to comfort, but these countries have triple (or more) the number of people we have here in Canada and the US. Can you imagine, since we are putting a strain on the earth, what it will be like when they join in. The importance of being aware of what we are doing is critical and figuring out how to change it and to implement those changes even more critical. And sometimes a quick little video like this is very effective.

      Yes, we all have to connect to our computers to get this information to one another nowadays and it seems at odds to the message presented. But when you want to reach the largest number of people, you have to go with the mode most efficient. Passing around a stone tablet would take years. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    1. Well, Abufares, you gotta write when inspired…it just doesn’t usually happen twice in one day for me! lol!

      Thanks for dropping by as always and for your support. ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. I read Omar’s post and I agreed with what he said. I could comment a lot of things about his ideas and your ideas, but I guess the first comment was so extense that I don’t want to bore your next readers/commenters.
    ๐Ÿ˜‰

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    1. Oh Gabriela, I would love to read what you have to say about it. If you don’t want to leave a comment, feel free to email me! ๐Ÿ™‚ But I think everyone would benefit from your ideas. Long comments are perfectly ok! ๐Ÿ™‚

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  3. Isn’t this just about extremes?

    Your first commentator is on a rant and that’s fine – we all have a right to voice our opinions. but I think the point that is forgotten in North America is moderation. I am a minimalist. That means that if I don’t need a new pair of black pants I am not going to buy one. I don’t spend my time shopping when I could be hiking, swimming or writing or something else. No I will not buy something from Wall-Mart that was made in China when I can buy made closer to home where a person is not paid 25c a day (at age 12) to make my running shoes.

    It’s about stopping to think first. I don’t need 12 kitchen knives, I need two. I don’t need 7 pairs of jeans – I need one – maybe 2. I don’t need 15 t-shirts. I am not saying return to the dark ages – but the moderation shown in other nations, such as Scandinavia for example is a good way to go about it.

    Standard of living? has all this stuff made any North American happy? no … I don’t think so. Many drown their sorrows in the short “high” of consumerism. It’s a band aid solution.

    When was the last time you took something to be repaired instead of tossed? there’s an entire industry of craftsmen being lost in the rush of consumerism. Instead of building homes well we build them quickly. Instead of making clothing to last we make them disposable with a fashion industry catering to that need.

    Moderation. A word that needs to be reborn.

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    1. I think you’re absolutely right, Fantasia. Very good points. Interestingly, before the days of spending beyond one’s means, people had no choice but to live in moderation. The advent of the credit card, etc., has been a detriment to the state of the world, but the champion of our capitalist society.

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  4. Thank you for the post Isobel. The importance of the video is that it connects the dots for people who have never thought about the damage caused to the environment from the production line to their house.

    I agree with Fantasia, it’s a lot about moderation. But most don’t know what that means. I know people who use their school loans to buy the latest designer handbags, and others who live off credit lines meanwhile owning the latest LCD TV’s and electronics. Electronics repair shops are non-existent, look to the rest the world and you’ll see repair shops on every corner.

    I am a firm believer that our lifestyle will come to halt quickly, especially after oil prices hit the roof after the recession. I remember when gas prices cracked the dollar per liter level after Katrina. The next day people were ditching their summer cars, and planning carpooling. We’ll just have to wait and see how it play out…

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    1. Thanks, Omar, for your comment. I agree that our lifestyle is in serious jeopardy. The interesting test for me was the blackout during the summer of 2003. It’s amazing how much our lives depend upon electricity. We couldn’t do anything…no money, no gas, no shopping, no cooking (except BBQ). We are so fully immersed in our way of living and pulling ourselves out will be a great challenge. I suspect we will be forced to change at some point rather than do it willingly and it will be very difficult to adjust. Chaotic even. If you really want to be depressed, you should read Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer. I started it but only got through a couple of chapters. If he’s right, the future of the earth is more frightening than we could ever imagine. Oh, I need a cup of tea…

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  5. I really hope no one takes that the wrong way and thinks I’m not for reusable energies. I love the green movement and I recycle as much as humanely possible even though they make it difficult where I live. I don’t live beyond my means at all, I don’t mean to offend her message, I think it’s valuable and important, but I don’t think the woman in the video was going about it the right way. And since it seemed feedback was wanted on the video, I figured that meant all angles, I really didn’t mean to offend anyone.

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    1. Oh! No offence was taken at all. You are entitled to your opinion and I’m glad you voiced it. I don’t agree with everything you say but I enjoy open dialogue so no problem. I haven’t responded to your comment yet as I want to put some thought into it and I need the kids in bed for that! ๐Ÿ™‚ Will get back to you soon!

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  6. While y’all are waiting for me to respond…will do this evening…here are an interesting video and blog post to read. One is a critique on The Story of Stuff (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5uJgG05xUY&feature=channel) and the other is a critique on the critique (http://breathenetwork.org/2009/10/08/story-of-stuff-critique-%E2%80%93-a-critique/). I’m sure there are more out there…but I found these from the automatically generated “Possibly related posts” above.

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    1. I looked at this response video. I sounds like it’s done by a teenager. The economics he argues is a bit superficial I think.

      He makes some points where he can cite statistics US government statistics. In some other cases he brushes off her original points with not much to back up what he says, as though it must be self evident.

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  7. Southern Cenerentola said: “And please, sheโ€™s acting like we impose ourselves on countries that we ravage with pollution. You think that those people would rather be rice farming for pennies a day to barely sustain life or industrializing their nation?”

    Southern Belle, you might want to look up the etymology of “Banana Republic” or the history of the United Fruit Company. You might want to ask yourself why Saddam Hussein (no Nuclear Weapons) gets invaded and North Korea (has Nuclear Weapons) doesn’t. You might want to dig a little into how the Shah of Iran came to power in the 1950’s.

    Elsewhere, Cenerentola noted: “Is this woman implying we should put these people out of work and let their children starve for the sake of a rare species of ant inhabiting these forests?”

    You’re presenting a false dichotomy. Why do you think that unless we exterminate this species of ant or that species of bonobo, some people will starve to death? Oh heck, if the choice is starvation vs species extinction (which it never is), I’ll grant you your wish: go ahead and kill off the ants. But first I’ll ask you, why are these people starving now? If you found that they were displaced from their traditional lands, had lost their traditional support mechanism and were now starving, would still support the extinction of our hypothetical ant. Wouldn’t you then be saying to whomever, “go ahead and manipulate the situation so that moral people like us are always presented with such stark choices?” But its never that stark is it? Not really. It’s more like “I like my lifestyle, and I’ll gladly sacrifice the bonobo to keep it”. If you are going to argue against this woman’s supposed hyperbole, you should refrain from indulging in some yourself.

    Enough counter rant for now, I’m going to watch TV (High Definition — Flat Screen) and play games on my Computer.

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  8. Look, she posted the video looking for responses. I responded. If you don’t like my opinion, it really doesn’t matter. An opinion was asked for, it was given, and I’m not going to spend my time arguing it, I stand firm on what I believe. Given your particularly condescending tone I doubt you would even give my explanation a chance anyway, so I’m not wasting my time with you. I meant to offend no one, and you’re tone is about as belittling as it comes. So I’m done with you.

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  9. OMG … that’s an EYE-OPENER!!! Actually it is much worse than I suspected even though I was aware it is BAD! I try – consciously – to do my own part (on a daily basis that is) not to participate too much in this vicious cycle but you’re right, it is HARD! it is many small things I guess everyone can do … it’s just a matter of WANTING and THINKING OF IT!

    GREAT clip Isobel, thanks so much!
    ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Hi Karin. Nice to see you here! It is hard to change one’s lifestyle, I agree, but a little bit at a time is better than nothing. The nice thing is that our kids will be more aware than we ever were…but I just hope that that won’t be too slow a change. Scientists are warning that big changes have to be made now or all is lost. I just wish the governments would take a more pro-active lead in this and stop pussy-footing around the corporations. But that seems to be the way of the world…sometimes I hate to say it but I think we’re screwed. Then again, you never know…the human race is pretty resilient.

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  10. Ah yes, I remember this video, posted about it on my blog a while back! It’s crazy.

    The GeekFest we are holding later thins month in Dubai is “green”, we will be getting all our old electronics for recycling

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    1. That’s a great idea, KJ. I know we have recycling depots here for electronics too. I’m not sure what these depots do with the stuff once they get it or how many people actually use them. I usually send my old electronics to the thrift stores where people can buy them second hand if they still work. Actually I send a lot of stuff to these charities. I try to put as little as possible in the garbage. Thanks for dropping by. ๐Ÿ™‚

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