My friend Cal recently sent around a link to the online video The Story Stuff. After a bit of inter-e-mail discussion by those receiving the email Cal asked if I'd post something about the Story so the discussion could go online. The following is my own experience with the video. We'd be interested in hearing yours - so we hope you'll share your thoughts in the comment section (you don't even have to read through my babble - you can skip right to the comments!) -Emily
Who doesn't use stuff?
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been bombarded by well meaning friends and colleagues with emails about the new 20-minute online video, The Story of Stuff. At the time I was in the middle of teaching a six-week high school workshop on “The Environmental Impact of Your Clothing.” Bingo, I thought, there's one class I wouldn’t have to prepare. Just download, turn off the lights and click.
The Story provides an overview of consumption from raw materials to disposal using clear and engaging cartoon graphics, narrated by Annie Leonard, whom I found equally clear and engaging.
“So what’d you think?” I asked my high school seniors.
“Oversimplified,” said one.
“Yeah, and biased,” said another.
I was surprised - though in some ways impressed. I’d worked with these kids for a couple of weeks and we’re a pretty small class. I knew they cared about environmental issues and that they were aware of the consequences of consumerism. They weren’t very impressed with this clip. Were they too old?
I didn’t think so – while the clip uses simple graphics, it covers a range of ideas that are complex and that really are aimed at adults, not just children. Had they ironically seen to much of this kind of stuff? Or too little?
Well, I thought, so much for that. Guess it’s not so useful after all. I had planned on showing it next semester to my college students but was having second thoughts.
Then one student asked, “What’s up with all that dioxin coming out of the stacks? Does that really happen? And is it really, like, the most toxic chemical?"
Aha. While I had honed my skill as a graduate student when dioxin was “hot stuff,” so to speak – these kids have barely heard of it. And what they have heard, sometimes came from clips like this – or as the prime example of a toxic disaster.
As with many environmental contaminants that have now become just buzz-words, they had no clue as to what dioxin was, how it can be formed, how it enters the environment and what happens when it does. We spent the remainder of the class talking about disposal of toxics, and the current problems caused when dioxins are released by villagers “cooking” e-waste. This issue of e-waste is one that they can all relate to. In fact - in some ways - I'd wished the Story of Stuff had focused a little on e-waste (though I understand the universal approach -we use and toss lots of stuff.)
Reluctant shrugs and sheepish grins all around.
Over-simplified as The Story may be, we're all participants.
It's definitely on the agenda for my Mount Holyoke class this spring - at the very least to spark lively discussion.