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The Story of Stuff: How Our Problem with Overconsumption Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health -- and What to Do About Itby Annie Leonard
Synopses & Reviews
Beginning with a startlingly simple message ("We have a problem with stuff. We use too much of it. And way too much of it is toxic."), Annie Leonard, creator of the internet film phenomenon The Story of Stuff, expands on the film in a powerful and inspiring book that tracks the life of the "stuff" we use every day, from extraction through production, distribution, consumption, and disposal.
Uncovering and communicating a new idea — that there is an intentional system behind our patterns of buying and throwing things away — she transforms how we think about our lives and our relationship to the planet, and, perhaps most importantly, she offers us hope that change is within reach. Brilliantly combining information about the economy, cultures, and the environment, Leonard illuminates how our "growth at all costs" economy has made for a system in crisis: it's a linear model used on a finite resource — the earth — and we've pushed that resource almost to its limit and jeopardized our own health in the process. The book will offer a deeper, more expansive look at the life of our "stuff" along with plenty of concrete solutions, while maintaining Leonard's trademark sense of fun.
"Leonard expands on her eponymous Internet movie hit to further examine the costs of Americans' addiction to purchasing and discarding consumer goods. The book records her evolution from a toxic waste — trafficking expert to a crusader for more durable and adaptable consumer goods and is divided into an exploration into the hidden and enormous costs of extraction of natural resources (it takes 98 tons of materials to produce a ton of paper), production (to grow and process cotton for one T-shirt requires over 256 gallons of water and generates five pounds of CO2), distribution (mammoth container ships transport cheaply produced goods from one end of the world to another, polluting the seas and generating toxic waste), overconsumption (Americans spend two-thirds of the $11 trillion economy on consumer goods), and disposal (most of these items end up at the dump). All this makes for depressing reading, and some humor and less priggishness would have helped. But Leonard conveys her message with clarity, urgency, and sincerity — and her suggestions for making stuff more durable, repairable, recyclable, and adaptable is undeniably important." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[Leonard] urges readers to learn to value stuff they truly need and avoid the forces that urge us to consume excessively. An important work for consumers of all ages." Library Journal
"An earnest, reasoned contribution to the national conversation on sustainability." Kirkus Reviews
"A rigorous thinker in command of a phenomenal amount of information, Leonard...offers hard facts, diligent analysis, and an ambitious vision in this comprehensive critique." Booklist (Starred Review)
Annie Leonard tracks the life of the stuff we use every day, transforming how we think about our patterns of consumption.
We have a problem with Stuff. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, we’re consuming 30 percent of the world’s resources and creating 30 percent of the world’s waste. If everyone consumed at U.S. rates, we would need three to five planets!
This alarming fact drove Annie Leonard to create the Internet film sensation The Story of Stuff, which has been viewed over 10 million times by people around the world. In her sweeping, groundbreaking book of the same name, Leonard tracks the life of the Stuff we use every day—where our cotton T-shirts, laptop computers, and aluminum cans come from, how they are produced, distributed, and consumed, and where they go when we throw them out. Like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, The Story of Stuff is a landmark book that will change the way people think—and the way they live.
Leonard’s message is startlingly clear: we have too much Stuff, and too much of it is toxic. Outlining the five stages of our consumption-driven economy—from extraction through production, distribution, consumption, and disposal—she vividly illuminates its frightening repercussions. Visiting garbage dumps and factories around the world, Leonard reveals the true story behind our possessions—why it’s cheaper to replace a broken TV than to fix it; how the promotion of "perceived obsolescence" encourages us to toss out everything from shoes to cell phones while they’re still in perfect shape; and how factory workers in Haiti, mine workers in Congo, and everyone who lives and works within this system pay for our cheap goods with their health, safety, and quality of life. Meanwhile we, as consumers, are compromising our health and well-being, whether it’s through neurotoxins in our pillows or lead leaching into our kids’ food from their lunchboxes—and all this Stuff isn’t even making us happier! We work hard so we can buy Stuff that we quickly throw out, and then
we want new Stuff so we work harder and have no time to enjoy all our Stuff. . . . With staggering revelations about the economy, the environment, and cultures around the world, alongside stories from her own life and work, Leonard demonstrates that the drive for a "growth at all costs" economy fuels a cycle of production, consumption, and disposal that is killing us.
It is a system in crisis, but Annie Leonard shows us that this is not the way things have to be. It’s within our power to stop the environmental damage, social injustice, and health hazards caused by polluting production and excessive consumption, and Leonard shows us how. Expansive, galvanizing, and sobering yet optimistic, The Story of Stuff transforms how we think about our lives and our relationship to the planet.
About the Author
Annie did her undergraduate studies at Barnard and graduate work in city and regional planning at Cornell. She has traveled to 40 countries, including Haiti, Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Pakistan and South Africa, in her work investigating and promoting anti-pollution issues internationally. Annie currently resides in California with her daughter.
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