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Eco-Shopping is Not the Answer

The Story of Change still


When it comes to trashing the planet, Americans are ready for change, and the ever-growing popularity of biking and buying organic aren’t the only evidence. Across the political spectrum, people agree on ending subsidies that encourage environmental degradation. And a majority of Americans support a shift to clean energy and more regulation over toxic chemicals. Our economy is struggling, but many Americans believe that a better one is possible—one that puts people and the planet first. So why isn’t it happening?

That’s the question Annie Leonard, creator of the animated video series The Story of Stuff, addresses in “The Story of Change.”


Back in 2007, Leonard’s first video, “The Story of Stuff,” connected the dots between resource extraction and sweatshops, planned obsolescence and pollution, urban growth and the influence of corporations in government. This unsustainable system “didn’t just happen,” Leonard told the internet. “It was designed.”

By the tens of thousands, viewers emailed her to ask how they could help. Leonard made more videos, demystifying topics from emissions trading to the federal budget. Although the series has been popular, it hasn’t translated into public demand for change.

A lack of information wasn’t the problem, Leonard realized. She looked at the stats and found that most Americans are on-board with increased protections for people and the environment. In the “Story of Change” video, she states that “74 percent of Americans support tougher laws on toxic chemicals, 83 percent want clean energy laws, and 85 percent think corporations should have less influence in government.”

In an interview with Lauren Feeney for BillMoyers.com, Leonard expands on this idea. “[A]t this point in the U.S., most environmentalists still focus on providing more information to the public, as though one more fact sheet or pie chart is what’s needed to inspire people to take action. I believe that what’s really needed is to reengage our citizen muscles.”

“One of the things [Leonard] has noticed based on responses to ‘The Story of Stuff,’ writes Simon Butler of Green Left, “[is] that, as a society, ‘we are forgetting how to make change.’” In “The Story of Change,” Leonard creates an equation for change: a clear goal, teamwork, and political action.

One group that’s on the right track? Occupy. Leonard told Butler that she finds hope in the movement and supports it enthusiastically. “The Occupy movement is taking back our spaces, taking back our discourses, it is striving to take back our government and in many ways it is taking back ourselves.”

Sources: Story of Stuff, BillMoyers.com, Green Left 

See Utne Reader on “The Story of Cap and Trade,” “The Story of Citizens United v. FEC,” and “The Story of Broke.”