Update, 3/9/2010:

Annie Leonard’s project has just been published in book form. It is called:

The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change
(Free Press, 352 pages).

Here’s an infectious little 20-minute video about consumerism that’s apparently been loose on your Internet since December 4: The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard. If you have a broadband connection, it’s very worth watching.

This environmental warning is a clean, clever, snappy production that delivers a lot of food for thought with minimal political abrasiveness, and when I finally saw it this morning after someone posted it to our local newspaper’s blogging system a couple of days ago, it caught me at a receptive time.

Christmas is over at last, along with the endless news updates on whether consumers have been fulfilling their sacred duty to retailers. Just before Christmas, I bought a stunningly inexpensive digital camera. Prior to that, I went through the process of having our washer repaired at a cost approaching that of a whole new machine. Also, even though a couple of years have since passed, I am still not over having my $300 iPod die one month after its 12-month warranty expired, requiring repairs estimated at (of course) $300. I have yet to repair or replace the device and possibly never will.

Annie Leonard makes some great points about the untenability of running our linear “materials economy” system on our finite planet, and she offers a little hope and a somewhat scattershot sense of direction at the end of her lecture.

One connection she does not clearly make, however, is that our enemy must ultimately be ourselves. Who, after all, is demanding goods at low prices? I know that I shop around, and I bet she does too.

“The Corporation” — that perennial, amorphous bogeyman — is depicted here as a fat, top-hatted bag of money. But aren’t most such corporations publicly traded, and therefore owned and guided by the very people who live on my street and simply want their mutual funds to allow them to retire one day?

Sometimes it seems as if we are a society of sleepwalkers who undermine ourselves each night, and then wake up indignant each morning over the damage.

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