The Story of Stuff

Saturday 6/15/13

Recently a YouTube video came to my attention called “The Story of Stuff” produced by the Tides Foundation and Annie Leonard.  It is a popular video supposedly showing the system of production and consumption in our society and its impact around the world.  The video is very poorly made in terms of content and the multiple economic errors made throughout it.  It seems to me that the producers had a conceptualization about how the world works, and they fitted the “facts” to prove that it is so.  It’s about 20 minutes long, so it will take a little of your time.

There are too many fallacies for me to name and explain each one of them here.  One of the more obvious has to do with her discussion of computers starting around 13:00.  The changing and developing nature of technological communications is not an impediment to communication, but advancement.  If it was an impediment, people would reject it.  (Of course this depends upon what kind of communication you prefer).  It is quite easy to upgrade motherboards, RAM, hard drive, and a host of other hardware components without having to throw out the entire thing.  I recently had to replace my hard drive because my old one crashed.  Did I toss my MacbookPro?  No, I just went to Apple and for a relatively cheap price they swapped out the old for the new, keeping all my data.  (Of course this is possible within existing systems: if I wanted to replace my MacbookPro battery with a Lenovo battery that wouldn’t work, but that is common sense).  If the video gets something as simple and easy to understand as computers completely wrong, just imagine the multitudinous errors on more advanced and difficult issues of economics, politics, and sociology, and their interactions that create society.

Instead of attempting my own critique, which would take considerable time, energy, and research that I can’t do at the moment, I’m going to post a four-part critique by HowTheWorldWorks produced by Lee Doren.  In general, I found his analysis to be quite good; he did a lot of footwork in looking at Leonard’s notes and exposing her misuse of sources and other fallacies.  You have to bear with him, since his astonishment at the abundant errors in this videos sometimes causes him to speak somewhat condescendingly, but this is the normal consequence when people who have little to no knowledge in a subject start pronounce truth and educating others about it.  This is an important issue as this video and its message have been and continue to be show throughout elementary schools in America.  Young children who have not studied economics, political theory, and whose analytical skills are not yet honed will easily buy into this video.  I’m afraid for a future generation who grow up with these ideas as their foundation.  In fact, this kind of thinking and this video in particular is even being shown at higher levels of education: one guest professor in an ethics class at the graduate school I attend showed part of this video in class on day, with the intention that its message about consumption and the destruction that comes with it should be a wake-up call to those who care about others and this earth.  I was shocked to find a tenured Ph.D. professor accepting the things in this video. Perhaps at some later time I will attempt my own analysis of the ideas in this video, ideas that are widespread in our society.

Here is Doren’s critique.


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