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The Story of Stuff July 1, 2009

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Academically Speaking, Odds and Ends.

If it were at all possible for Al Gore, Tom Friedman, Naomi Klein, and Michael Moore ever to collaborate on a video about the perils of modern day consumerism and its environmental effects, the result would probably be something like The Story of Stuff.

Produced by former Greenpeace activist Annie Leonard, I first caught wind of the video via a New York Times article discussing how it was being used in class by a growing number of teachers, to mixed reactions from students, parents, and school administrators. Curious, I decided to check it out, and now understand what the fuss — both positive and negative — is all about.

Overall, I think it’s great that materials such as this are critical of the excesses and, at times, the unintended consequences of the modern-day economy. More so in the post-subprime, post-Lehman, post-financial meltdown world. Especially so. Yet it’s equally unfortunate that The Story of Stuff is unabashedly slanted in its presentation. There’s a fair bit of political innuendo thrown into the mix, unnecessary to be sure and terribly inelegant. Even-handed political advocacy? Cool. Political advocacy by allusion and insinuation? Not cool.

More’s the pity, as there is clearly a need for something like this that forces us to reexamine our lifestyles, both as individuals and for society as a whole. Is it fit for educational purposes? I’d say no, or at the very least it should be used with more than a grain of salt. Of course, I could be wrong. If the video is anything to go by, “to each his own” is a large part of what got the world into the mess it’s in to begin with. Yet that’s the admonishon I’d say applies best to The Story of Stuff.

[The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard]



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