A Certain Shade of Green

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Stuff it August 15, 2008

Filed under: Blogroll,social — Abhimanyu Ghoshal @ 11:00 am
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It’s not outdated until you’ve seen it, understood it, and started acting on it. Annie Leonard’s short film, The Story of Stuff (released Dec 4 ’07), explains the process of consumption as we know it and the problems associated with the massive growth in our habit of acquiring, well, stuff.
The 20-minute film shows the gritty side of how corporations go about obtaining resources, manufacturing products, fuelling mindless consumption, consumers’ careless trashing of ‘obsolete’ products, and destructive disposal. It’s simple, and eye-opening, to the point that I began to wonder where I fit into this with my career in advertising.
Leonard tells her story with a simple diagram which in its design itself shows us the basic problem: the above-mentioned processes are all in a linear system. Products start out as natural resources and end up being consumed and finally incinerated, with no point of renewing what is being used up. On a finite-resources planet. Not the smartest move we ever made.
The part I found most interesting was the one on industrialist-engineered planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence. It’s chilling to know that there are people out there thinking about how to integrate this into everything you buy. Surely this adds fuel to the already-raging ‘the-corporations-own-us’ fire. My worry is that it’s actually beginning to make some sense.
After I watched the film, I started to think about how much I contribute to this system (Leonard essentially deals with US consumption statistics and patterns), since, even if we’re not American, we’re no angels. I’ve noticed that my buying habits with respect to products subject to obsolescence are more beat-the-system-ish rather than careful: I try to buy electronics with replaceable parts, with all the features that I know I’ll use, and which are future-proof to a reasonable extent. All so that I don’t have to run to the store the minute a new model comes out (I commented on my brother’s blog post about wanting to get an iPhone 3G, read my comment here). So in essence, I’m buying less, but not out of my concern for the planet. Another issue is that those of us in other countries are trying to emulate the lifestyles of people in the US. (Un)Consciously, we’re buying more cars than we have passengers for and pocketing more phones than people want to call us on.
The Story of Stuff is a great way to start learning about the dangers of our ways of consumption and disposal. It’s a matter of grave concern, but there are so many things we can do to stop things from getting further out of hand. To start with, download the film, watch it, and tell others about it too. Link and trailer below.

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