This week, the scientist-philosopher bloggers on 13.7: Cosmos and Culture are exploring ways of rethinking and reimagining our materialistic, consumer-based society. Following that conversation brought me to Ursula Goodenough’s insightful evolutionary perspective on our self-absorbed human culture — “If there has been an overarching human error, it has been to construct cultural contexts that fail to mesh with planetary realities” — which led me to her earlier “homily on stuff,” which in turn pointed me to this video, “The Story of Stuff,” by Annie Leonard. I’d seen it before, but it’s one that bears frequent rewatching — to remind ourselves of how we live, of how we could live, and of the difference between the two.
There’s lots in here to think about — not just the process by which we turn the Earth’s resources into skinny jeans and iPads, but the role of government and corporations, and the vital necessity of rethinking the very nature of the economy itself: the kinds of jobs and identities we should wish to have in order to exist in a sustainable web, one that both respects the Earth and fulfills our need for meaningful ways of living. Not an easy task, in these hard times (and in this toxic American political season), to ask ourselves if the economy we depend on is even a good thing, when so many people are struggling and just want the damn thing up and running again.
More information, including videos on specific issues, can be found on the website of The Story of Stuff Project. It’s a great introduction to how the materials economy works, and how we can make it better.