The Story of Stuff

Posted on May 12, 2009


Website: article:

This ~20 min. video and connected website is a captivating production of consumption in America. Key words: Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption, Disposal.

— VIA —

In my estimation and observation, the heart of this particular subject  the mindset, the ideologies, the biases, and the a priori assertions and assumptions of people. In other words, it’s not just what we think about it, it’s what we personally feel about it, especially in the depths of our conscience. Rationality may quarterback, but emotions head coach and even own the team.

Take for example the terminology. “Environmentalism,” “Green,” “Sustainability,” “Conservation,” “Renewable Resources,” and others. Each of those can conjure up meaning systems that can be either negative, or positive. It doesn’t seem to be long before some are using the terms, “Tree Hugger,” and derogating words like “Environmentalist,” while others are “saving the planet.”  The politicians know this well (and the social scientists they employ), hence the shifting from “Global Warming” to “Climate Change.” Words matter, and they’re just as manipulative as video productions because they are intricately tied to our fundamental belief systems. Why?

Put more directly, dogma matters. Ideas matter. Convictions matter.

Which brings me to a fundamental connection, and why this blog exists, and hopefully how my profession (pastor) matters in the world. Actions are tied to ideas, and ideas are tied to convictions, and convictions are deeply influenced by our morals and our consciences. Changing the world requires changing the way in which people think, and how people feel, and the commitments that people make, ideologically and morally. Some would buck at this claiming it to be manipulative and destructive to “freedom of thought,” but I would suggest this is merely the way humanity works. And we can choose to do good by it, or dismiss it with contention.

And, since all of this matters deeply, where do convictions develop? Very, very young. Most definitely before people reach the age of 18, belief systems and convictions about the world are formed and solidified over time. I’ve used this line before: “You wanna change the world? Change the world’s leaders, or change the world’s children.” I think I’d like to add, “you’ll have more success with the latter.”

As for the Story of Stuff, I applaud it, and am glad that so many are leveraging it in their classrooms and for teaching aides. Even if you disdain the production (as one person put it, ironically, for being “anti-capitalist”), can we not commend to ourselves and our generation to care for the world, to think bigger and more broadly about our existence, not merely as consuming individuals, but as residence of a community?

One will have to be careful with the facts, as one of my friends commented that it is a “bit subjective.” To read a contrarian view to the video, see The Heritage Foundation’s blog post. I will concede that getting your facts straight is a deeply critical part of the process of communicating, and the statistics suggested, if not substantiated will merely weaken your position and call into question the validity of your ideas.

Even with its shortcomings, the movement is “good,” and in my conviction, helps to fulfill the Biblical narrative…

ויקח יי אלהים את-האדם וינחהו בגן עדן לעבדה ולשמרה

“…to work it and guard it.”