Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Story of Stuff - a Summary

This is a summary of the contents of the video, The Story of Stuff. I regard this video as essential viewing, and its message as fundamentally correct. I also cover the video on OLDaily.

The materials system that defines our economy today:
extraction, production, distribution, consumption, disposal

It can't work. It's a linear system on a finite planet.

What's missing
- people. Some have a little more say.
- corporation - bigger than the government

Extraction
- we are running out of resources - in the last decade, 1/3 of the world's resource base has been consumed

- In this system, if you don't own or buy a lot of stuff, you don't have value

Production
- many chemicals employed, most untested
- eg. pillows, are doused in BFR (a flame-retardent), a neurotoxin
- pollution - they emit more than 4 billion pounds of toxic chemicals a year

The erosion of local environments and economies leaves people with no other economic option... but to work (and live) in toxic environments

Distribution

Sell as quickly as possible, keep prices down
It's all about externalizing the cost - keep wages down, skimp on health insurance

How could $4.99 possibly capture the cost of the radio?
I didn't pay for the radio - kids in the Congo paid with their future


Consumption

The heart of the system, the engine that drives is - that's why Bush said, after 911, to shop
- the primary way our value is measured and demonstrated is how much we consume
- 1 percept of material we consume is still in use 6 months after we consume them
How did thsi happen?

It was designed
- our enormously productive economy demands that we make buying a way of life
- under Eisenhower - the purpose of the economy became to become consumers of goods
- planned obselescence (disposables) and perceived obscelence
- we are convinced to throw away stuff that is still perfectly useful - by changing the way stuff looks
- advertisement plays a big role in this - the point of an ad is to make us unhappy with what he have - we are told "we are wrong"
- all we see is the shopping - the production, distribution and disposal happen outside our field of vision
- we pay for this with our time - we work harder than ever - and in our leisure we watch TV (commercials) and we shop - "we are on this crazy work watch spend treadmill"
(doesn't mention - but should - credit)

Disposal

- garnage - gets stuffed in a landfill - pollutes air, land and water - and changes the climate - buring releases the toxics
- recycling helps, by reducing garbage, reducing demand
- but recycling is not enough - for every 1 can of recycling, 70 cans remain upstream
- also, much of the garbage can't be recycled

--

It is a system in crisis
There are many points of intervention
But all of it works when we see the big picture
We need to chuck the old school throw-away mindset - based on reduced consumption and social equity
The people who say we can continue the old way are misled - they're dreaming

9 comments:

  1. Stephen,

    I so glad to see you post about this. I appreciate you insight and especially the idea that what we, as modern, western people, live in a dream.

    So how do you wake a dreamer? It's not as easy as you might think.

    I went to a symposium a few months ago that I can recommend to you and your readers -
    http://awakeningthedreamer.org/

    "Our mission is bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just human presence on Planet Earth."

    Please check it out - It might not be what you expect.

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  2. Great posting Steven. My sentiments exactly. Might I recommend to anyone reading this post that they also check out the film The Corporation at http://www.thecorporation.com/.
    Very enlighening when coupled with Naomi Klien's The Shock Doctrine.It is why I feel so uneasy about our democratic online future of learners given the power constructs that have existed since before the industrial revolution. Keep up the great multi-faceted posts

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  3. Oops my boy's name is Steven. Sorry about that!!

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  4. Viral Video 'The Story of Stuff' Is Full of Misleading Numbers
    http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,520207,00.html

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  5. Let's examine the "correction" offered by Fox News...


    Here's a look at some of the scariest figures Leonard cites in her movie that are misleading or just plain wrong.

    Misleading: "Where I live, in the United States, we have less than 4 percent of our original forests left."

    • The U.S. Forest Service reports that 33 percent of the nation is forested, and that the number has been stable for about 100 years. It sounds like Leonard is saying that 96 percent of our forests have been cut down, but what she's really saying is that some trees have been cut down at some point in the last 400 years in nearly every forest.


    The Fox News article is substituting 'forest' for 'original forest'.

    But as any silviculturalist can tell you, there is a significant difference between 'old growth' (original forest) and the brush that grows as a replacement.

    New forest is much less dense and much less mature. It is generally not useful as lumber, and recycles carbon at a fraction of the original forest.

    Misleading: "80 percent of the planet's original forests are gone."

    • The U.N. reports that 30 percent of the earth's land surface is forested. Though many areas have been logged, the film seems to imply that 80 percent of forests are now gone, which is untrue. Though still a substantial environmental problem, the U.N. reports that the rate of deforestation is going down.


    Same thing. They are confusing 'forest' with 'original forest'.


    False: "Of the largest 100 economies on earth now, 51 are corporations."

    • According to a 2002 study at the University of Leuven in Belgium, that number should be about 37. And even the largest corporation is tiny compared to some of the world's biggest economies — Exxon, the biggest of all, is 1/200th the size of the U.S. economy. The error came about because environmentalists were comparing the sales of corporations to the GDP of nations, which aren't comparable.


    Actually, they are comparable, both being measured in dollars and both representing economic throughput.

    The Belgian study is 7 years old, during which time corporations have continued to grow.


    Misleading: "75 percent of global fisheries now are fished at or beyond capacity."

    • According to the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, 24 percent of the fisheries they're monitoring are over-exploited or depleted. Fifty-two percent are being fished at or near capacity, which means fish stocks aren't going up, but they won't necessarily go down either.


    The Fox reference, which is not stated, appears to be plain false. Here is an actual quote from the FAO reiterating the 75 percent number: http://www.fao.org/english/newsroom/news/2003/25379-en.html

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    Replies
    1. Wow, thank you for that. I'm writting a paper about this video and that was very helpful.

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  6. "• According to a 2002 study at the University of Leuven in Belgium, that number should be about 37. And even the largest corporation is tiny compared to some of the world's biggest economies — Exxon, the biggest of all, is 1/200th the size of the U.S. economy. The error came about because environmentalists were comparing the sales of corporations to the GDP of nations, which aren't comparable.


    Actually, they are comparable, both being measured in dollars and both representing economic throughput.

    The Belgian study is 7 years old, during which time corporations have continued to grow."


    GDP is calculated by the addition of 4 factors:
    -Consumer Spending
    -Investment made by industry
    -Excess of Exports over Imports
    -Government Spending
    3 of the 4 factors (these 3 being by far the most contributory when compared individually to the 4th) are based solely in corporation and industry. It is therefore correct to say that corporation sales and nation GDP are incomparable, but only because GDP takes into account corporation sales as a primary contributor. Actual corporation wealth, compared to actual government wealth, is sure to be a lot higher than either The Story of Stuff (or FOX News) shows(/admits).

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  7. Corporations are Devils

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  8. This is the most BS have ever watched/ read. Go practice your Eco-terrorism in another country.

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