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Viral Video Tackling Consumerism And Social Equity Creates Buzz

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With over 12 million on-line views, The Story of Stuff is one of the most widely viewed environmental-themed short films of all time.

According to the New York Times, the viral video has been embraced by teachers eager to supplement textbooks that lag behind scientific findings on climate change and pollution.

The creator of this project is Annie Leonard, an advocate for sustainability and social equity, and a critic of blind consumerism. Motivated by her incessant curiosity to understand “the life before and after stuff”, she dedicated almost two decades of her life researching on environmental health and equity, and has traveled to 40 countries to witness the process and loops of consumerism.

In order to convey her research and ideas in a way that is easily understood by audiences, she approached Free Range Studios to create this series of animations. While it tackles the core topics with a light-hearted approach, its brutal assessment of the “bad guys” have received much attention from detractors like Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs, who labeled the video as “left wing propoganda”.

Despite of being labeled as “Un-American”, Leonard has no qualms about it.”True patriotism and true loyalty to this country require standing up and pointing out when we’re going astray. If you’re in a ship, and it’s sinking, and pointing out that it’s sinking is considered disloyal, then you’re going to sink,” she said in an interview with Noelle Robbins.

Dawn Zweig, an environmental studies teacher from Putney Studies said in an interview with New York Times that students, particularly affluent ones, might take the critique personally. “If you offend a student, they turn off the learning button and then you won’t get anywhere,” Ms. Zweig said.

Representing corporations as a bloated
caricature with a top hat and dollar sign

However, teachers have seen students like Jasmine Madavi, 18, becoming an environmental advocate at home. She told New York Times that after watching the videos last year in Mr. Lukach’s class at Woodside Priory, she started to advocate the use of filter water instead of bottled water. Despite of resistance from her mum who felt that filter water would not taste as good as bottled water, she went on to buy a filter for the household and now the household is converted.

While some families were acceptive of their children’s enthusiasm, there were some who were offended by the videos’s “anti-capitalism” message. Mark Zuber, a parent of a child at Big Sky High School in Missoula, told New York Times that “there was not one positive thing about capitalism in the whole thing.” A school board in Missoula County, Mont., stopped screening the video after complaints from a parent that the video was biased against capitalism.

“I wanted to encourage all of us to think about the broader context of the issue that we’re working on, to sort of deepen our analysis. I’d rather we be arguing about this stuff than ignoring it,” said Leonard in an interview with Umbra.

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