The Trouble with Stuff: A Conversation with Annie Leonard


Annie Leonard 
Filmmaker Annie Leonard finds people want to be liberated from overconsumption.  

This article originally appeared in On the Commons.

Annie Leonard is one of the most articulate, effective champions of the commons today. Her webfilm The Story of Stuff has been seen more than 15 million times by viewers. She's also adapted it into a book. Drawing on her experience investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues in more than 40 countries.

How did you first learn about the commons?  

I first learned about the commons as a kid using parks and libraries. I didn’t assign the label “commons” to them, but I understood early on that some things belong to all of us and these shared assets enhance our lives and rely on our care.

Like many other college students, my first introduction to the word “commons” was sadly in conjunction with the word “sheep” and “trage­dy.” That lousy resource management class tainted the word for me for years, until I heard Ralph Nader address a group of college students. He asked them to yell out a list of everything they own. This being the pre-i-gadget 1980’s, the list included “Sony Walkman…boombox… books…bi­cycle…clothes…bank account.” When the lists started to peter out, Ralph asked about National Parks and public airwaves. A light went off in each of our heads, and a whole new list was shouted out: rivers, libraries, the Smithsonian, monuments. That’s when I realized that the commons isn’t an overgrazed pasture; it really is all that we share.

4/16/2013 2:03:44 PM

Annie Leonard was ahead of her time. Now the time has come--to think creatively about what we can share and how we can share it. For example, do we really need all that gym equipment that ends up taking up space and gathering dust? Why not just get outside into your local park with a group of pals and learn how to use the park features creatively to do stretches and strengthening exercises? That's what I do, and that's what I teach others to do.

Tena Winston
4/16/2013 12:26:44 AM

This should be shown in every Grammar school , Junior and Senior High School.

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