Thursday, March 25, 2010

Annie Leonard and the Story of Stuff

Seattle is fortunate to have a program called Town Hall which regularly invites renowened guests for lectures - economist Paul Krugman, Moby, etc.

Annie Leonard was at Town Hall on March 24 to discuss her new book named after the famous web video The Story of Stuff.

If you have never seen The Story of Stuff it is an articulate and digestible movie about ... stuff. Material. What we use and consume. How it affects us. What our impact is on the world around us and what this really means to us.

Everyone should watch the video.

I regularly talk about running. But I'm not just a runner and need to speak about things that inspire me whether it's from running or not. And to be frank Annie Leonard is truly inspiring. And her message needs to be heard.

To be honest there is no way I can summarize or discuss this topic with the passion, veracity, or intelligence in the way that Ms. Leonard does. But this problem of what we consume, how much, and how much is left is of great concern to me.

Three facts stood out at me last night in her talk:

  • Overall humans consumes 1.5 planets worth of resources a year.
  • The United States has 5% of the world's population yet consumes 35% of the earth's resources.
  • If the top 3,000 corporations externalize about $2.2 trillion of their costs a year which is roughly 1/3 of their profits.

OK, the last one requires a bit of explanation but it basically has to do with the costs that corporations push out to us consumers.

Alright, that's heavy stuff. The best part is that the message is not demoralizing. If anything Ms. Leonard is hopeful that we can solve the problems that we've created for ourselves.

How? The small stuff is good. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. As runners one of the biggest impacts we can make would be not to drink bottled water.

But her argument is we need to flex the "civic" muscle in our brain versus our "consumer" muscle. Join organizations that are doing something about this - invariably these groups need help.

As for me I need to figure out how to become involved. I'm tired of sitting on the sidelines and need to do my part. Sacrificing is difficult but as a runner I know about sacrifice and dedication in pursuit of my goals. I'm passionate about food so it may be something in that area or maybe something to do with toxics in our consumer products. The good news is there is no shortage of problems we need to tackle.

Who's with me?

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