Sunday, January 02, 2011

Review: The Story of Stuff

I was pleased to see that an excellent little film about capitalist production has been turned into an illustrated book The Story of Stuff.

The people behind the project have a number of really interesting instructional videos at their website, like this one on the connection between profits, environmental degradation and the shape of the electronics industry.

These videos are good resource because they're easy to watch, easy to understand and, although their message is radical, it's not conveyed in a shaking fist, red in the faced algebraic dogma of hate.

When the presenter Annie Leonard says that the corporations "get the profits but everyone else pays" with their health, with their environment and economically it's a key point of anti-capitalism but we can get so used to these kinds of messages being delivered in specific language and full of sound and fury that when you have a light and smiley presenter it would be easy to miss the message.

It would also be easy to think that just because the videos (and now book) focus on specific problems and specific solutions that it's going to fall back on to ethical consumerism. But, like Annie says, "we are not going to shop our way out of the problem" and goes on to talk about political solutions to a fundamentally economic problem.

Oh, and there's one last refreshing thing about them. They may deal with big problems and look at them in a global way but they don't feel obliged to end every piece to camera force feeding us a ready packed solution. I know some people will find that a weakness, along with the lightness of tone, but to my mind sometimes less is so much more.


Sue said...

I've used the bottled water one with a class and it works well with non-native speakers, as there are pictures to help convey the more complicated bits. Not that I would ever try to indoctrinate/impose my views on my students you understand ;)

Anonymous said...

The book is informative and so inspiring. I hope more people can read this book and get informed about the issues of stuff.
This book ( and the videos of Stuff) is likely to do a similar impact with Rachel Carson's Silent Spring.