A year and a half ago, Annie Leonard released The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute video about the dangers of over-consumption. It "has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation," Leslie Kaufman wrote in Sunday's New York Times: "So far, six million people have viewed the film at its site, StoryofStuff.com, and millions more have seen it on YouTube. More than 7,000 schools, churches, and others have ordered a DVD version, and hundreds of teachers have written Ms. Leonard to say they have assigned students to view it on the Web."
Critics object to Kaufman's negative portrayal of big business, along with inaccuracies and oversimplification. Even if you agree with Leonard's main point - that we buy far too much, and that this is bad for us, for others, and for the earth - you may find the video unnecessarily confrontational.
Like it or not, chances are your kids (friends, relatives, coworkers) are going to watch this video, and it may come soon to a church near you. Stick with it, even if the first three minutes appall you. Leonard raises issues that Christians are already discussing (see, for example, the discussion of fair trade at the Ten Thousand Villages website) and that we need to talk more about with our kids. For example:
—Let's assume that some businesses do operate for the benefit of humankind and the earth. How do these businesses care for the environment? What are their policies on work hours? Wages? Health benefits? Child labor? The products they make? The way they market their products?
—Can a business care for the environment and its employees and still make a profit?
—How much of my identity is related to things I buy? Which of my purchases have made me happier? Am I happier today because ...1
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