New Internationalist

The Story of Stuff

June 2010

By Annie Leonard

This book began life as a viral video phenomenon that has been watched 10 million times. In a sprightly 20 minutes – and with disarming ease – Leonard unpacked the lifecycle of consumer goods.

So popular is the video that Leonard’s 10-year study has been turned into a book, soon to be available in eight languages and as a downloadable audio file.

Thankfully, Leonard’s writing style is as engaging as her movie-making, drawing upon her experience in international anti-waste trafficking and incineration campaigns.

Thanks to the combination of specialization and production chains that span the globe, we consumers rarely get to see the whole picture. This book joins the dots, showing the impacts of resource extraction on local communities and the environment, making the link between games consoles, civil war, rape and rainforest destruction. Globalization has encouraged sweatshops, consumerism has accelerated and become entwined with personal identity – and is also managing to make the rich world unhappy. Poorer countries, meanwhile, are used as waste dumping grounds.

Ultimately, this is a call to citizen action; a demand for a systemic replacement of economic growth with genuine indicators of progress. Military spending, waste and corporate excess must be curbed. The Story of Stuff concludes on an up-beat, with an inspiring vision for 2030 – and legislative proposals for getting there.


This column was published in the June 2010 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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Product information Constable ISBN 978184901038
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This article was originally published in issue 433

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