The Story of Stuff

the story of stuff

The Story of Stuff is a 2007 short polemical animated documentary about the lifecycle of material goods. The documentary is critical of excessive consumerism and promotes sustainability. Filmmaker Annie Leonard wrote and narrated the film, which was funded by Tides Foundation, Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, Free Range Studios and other foundations.

 The video divides up the materials economy into a system composed of extraction, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal. To articulate the problems in the system, Leonard adds people, the government, and corporations. Leonard’s thesis, ‘you cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely’ is supported throughout the video by statistical data.

Although the video itself doesn’t give attribution to her information, the producers provide an annotated script that includes footnotes with explanations and sources for some of her assertions. ‘We [The U.S.] have 5% of the world’s population but we’re consuming 30% of the world’s resources and creating 30% of the world’s waste.’ She cites Seitz (2001), who says, ‘…in 1990 the United States, with about 5 percent of the world’s population, was using about one-quarter of the energy being used by all nations.’

Leonard also quotes what Victor Lebow said in 1955 regarding economic growth: ‘Our enormously productive economy… demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption… we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate.’ ‘The Story of Stuff’ has been subject to public discussion, especially after ‘The New York Times’ published a front page article about the video on May 10, 2009. The American Family Association says that the video is anti-consumer, and even anti-American because the video implies that Americans are greedy, selfish, cruel to the third world, and ‘use more than our share.’ Glenn Beck of Fox News characterized the video as an ‘anti-capitalist tale that unfortunately has virtually no facts correct.’

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