Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Story of Stuff How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-- And A Vision For Change

The Story of Stuff How Our Obsession With Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-- And A Vision For Change by Annie Leonard

This book is an anti-consumerist statement about consuming and wasting too much.  It describes how Americans waste huge amounts of materials.  Annie Leonard asks people to use less, use less toxic materials, buy things more carefully and choose more durable environmentally friendly products.

Annie Leonard is tracking how stuff is made.  It is a description of dangerous, inefficient, and wasteful consumption.  The book starts with extraction of resources, moves to production, then distribution, consumption, and finally disposal of goods.  She describes how the United States creates a society focused on getting more and more goods, planning to make them quickly obsolete, and then driving even more demand with advertising.

I like the idea of having fewer things that are more durable, better quality, and easier to reuse or recycle. I also can identify with the authors wish that people in the United States were more community focused.  I would like to see more recycled goods, green chemistry, and other products in supermarkets and stores.

However, I did find parts of this book to be a bit overbearing.  She is preaching at times against globalization, for fair trade, and often talks about human rights in fairly strong progressive language.  At points it seems unrealistic.  For example, she claims that we can survive on only solar and wind for energy.   Things like distributed hydroelectric, biofuels, and ocean power are not even touched on.

At the end of the book, we get a picture of a kind of agrarian paradise without cars, public gardens, and lots of public transportation.  It has a kind of far out feeling to it.  We are supposed to voluntarily reduce our carbon footprint to next to nothing.  It seemed a bit unrealistic.

The sentiment is easy to relate to.  I read the book as part of the Ecolibris campaign to read a book printed on recycled paper.   Recycling is something which I support.

I also found the book to be very much problem oriented.  Annie Leonard spends quite a bit of time writing against pvc plastics and incinerators which are quite toxic. I would have liked to see a litle bit more on solutions to environmental problems.  She makes some brief mentions of biomimicry technology and clean technology.  She derides clean technology as being impractical because there simply will be too many people.

I found this inteeresting. I am for more urban farming, urban greenhouses, farmers markets, and more local production of goods.  However, I don't have that every house should have a compost bin feeling.  I also like the idea of more car sharing and limiting use of cars to the minimum.  I like the concept of having public rental lots like zipcar.

This was an interesting book about wasteful, excess consumption.  However, it often had a politically correct feel to it.  It is worth reading if you are interested in the environment, a green lifestyle, or have an anti-consumerist world view.

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