The Story of Stuff
Do you know the Story of Stuff? It begins with the Earth. The short version is that we exploit and extract all kinds of natural resources that we then turn into all kinds of stuff often with the use of toxic chemicals and cheap, hard labor. The result is stuff that is “designed for the dump.” We are glad our stuff is so cheap, but usually that is because the invisible costs to our health, the well being of workers and the vitality of the Earth are not counted when our stuff is rung up at the cash register.
The saddest part of this story is that we are led to believe, and told over and over by advertising, that it is this very stuff that will make us happy, that will satisfy our need for acceptance, self-esteem, connection, power and meaning in our lives. We’re led to believe that our primary value in society is to drive the growth economy forward by being active consumers. Unquestionably we have to consume to live, to provide essentials for ourselves and our family. But to think of ourselves just as consumers is a) demeaning, and b) destructive. It completely disregards our personal talents, gifts, creativity and true human needs for the sake of economic growth that favors only a few of us at the expense of people and the Earth.
Watch this terrific 21 minute film to get the true story of stuff.
How do we write a new story? Once we recognize the fallacy and the con job of this story we can choose to change how we live personally and change the policies that drive this wasteful and destructive system. We can change our values and priorities from worshipping money and economic growth at any price to caring for all life. In the words of the Network of Spiritual Progressives we can adopt a New Bottom Line.
A New Bottom Line is one that judges the success of every sector, system and institution of our society (economy, government, schools, health care, the legal system) based not on the old bottom line of whether they maximize money, profit and power, but instead by the extent to which they maximize love and caring, kindness and generosity, empathy and compassion, social, economic and environmental justice, peace and nonviolence, and protection of the life support system of our planet, as well as encourage us to transcend a narrow utilitarian approach to nature and other human beings and enhance our capacity to respond with awe and wonder to the universe and to see the sacred in others and in all sentient beings.
This New Bottom Line prioritizes the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants, as well as justice and peace, over money, profit and power. We call this a New Bottom Line – Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Planet.
See the Network of Spiritual Progressives for more about "A New Bottom Line."
The bottom line is that where we can consume less we should. Every thing we buy has a history of resources, labor, manufacturing methods and greenhouse gas emissions. We can learn that history and make wise choices when we shop. We also need to see the bigger picture: many people can only afford to buy cheap stuff because the system is not designed to support our collective well being. As citizens of the world we can become aware of the policies and practices that support an untenable story, work to change those that do not support Life, and advocate for those that do.
People wrote this story. People can write a new story. We are already doing just that and everyone is invited and needed to create the story the works for all.
RESOURCES ABOUT STUFF
"The Story of Stuff," by Annie Leonard. An essential film.
"Conscious Consumerism is a Lie—Here's a Better Way to Save the World."
For the Love of Earth
The Next System Project
Local Futures—The Economics of Happiness
A New Bottom Line—The Network of Spiritual Progressive
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