“Story of stuff” is a very interesting video about the material economic, which is explained generally by five steps of production and consumption : extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal. At first, these five steps seem to be enough to create a perfect line of the economy operation, but, in fact, it is incomplete for its unlimitied characteristics applied to our finite planet. Specifically, these steps omit three important factors : goverment, corporation, people (resident), whose role cause a huge effect in sustainable production and consumption.
Generally, main responsibiity of the goverment is to ensure their residents’ life. However, that role’s object are shifted toward corporation, which becomes larger and larger day by day. In other words, the goverment now put their consideration toward corporation, not their residents. First, we take a deeper look at the goverment, who contribute a big role in sustainable production and consumption. They should have using tax money to develop the economy; however, “more than 50% of our federal tax money is now going to the military… ” – cited by Annie.
Moreover, War Resisters League website, which differs from government reports that put the figure at around 20-25%, also states veterans benefits as part of “past military” spending, and includes 80% of the debt interest payments. Besides investing money in military, the goverment’s role is also enforcing policy for corporation extracting natural resources, protecting a golden way ( “golden arrow”) from distribution to consumption, which, in turns, promoting shopping and consumption. According to the video clip, this is the goverment’s role nowadays, instead of watching out or taking care of their residents.
The second factor to be considered is corporation. It is an inevitable factor that create a lot of effect not only for the economy but also for our society, culture through its complete operation illustrated by the material economic model. In the first stage of the model, extraction, corporation plays a key role in damaging the environment, which leads to another definition of extraction : “exploitation”. Corporation breaks the limit of the material economic model and makes it become unlimited by cutting off many trees, deforestation, contaminating water source.
For instance, there are one-third of the world natural resources exploited. Especially, in America, there’s only 4% of original forest left but 40% of undrinkable water source because of the increase up to three to five times in people consumption. With this level of consumption, corporation cannot find enough natural resource in its own country for production, so corporation will find and use natural resource of its neighborhood’s land and consider that those natural resources are their own properties, which is called “third world” property.
It leads to the result, which affects not only the corporation’s own country but also the whole world. Specifically, 75% of fishing area is barely or over-exploited, 80% planet’s original forest is gone and 2000 trees locating in Amazon are disappeared just in one minute. The natural resources exploited, then, become useful materials in the second stage of the material economic model : production. At this stage, products are made based on the rule : toxic + natural resources = product. Certainly, toxic in, toxic out. For example, B. F.
Rs – Brominated Flame Retardants, toxic to human’s brains, are used in pillow production. Suprisingly, people place their head on toxics to their brains everynight! Not only producing products harming human’s health, corporation also eliminate a huge toxic waste to the environment. The U. S. A industry admitted that it eliminate about 2 pounds of toxic chemicals every year; however, they do not want to smell these toxic chemicals, so they move their plants abroad and pollute someone else’s land. “Unfortunately”, these toxic chemicals’ steam is bring back to their country by the wind.
After producing intoxicated products and polluting the environment, corporation distributes its product and sells all toxic stuff as quickly as possible by using the lowest price. For example, one radio is sell at the price of 5 dollars, which is not payoff for the true production cost such as transportation cost, equipment cost, labour cost… As a result, corporation tries to cut off the cost by exploiting other nations’ natural resource ( exploiting mental in Africa, plastic produced in China) and most importantly, exploiting the labor force by paying incredibly low salary, cutting off their health insurance money.
After distribution, corporation use 2 methods to promote consumption : planned obsolescence and perceived obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is also called “designed for the dump”, which means corporation makes stuff to be useless as quickly as possible so consumers discard it and buy a new one. This method is applied for many kinds of product such as bowl, plastic glass, computer… Besides planned obsolescence, corporation also designs new style of stuff in order to make people feel embarassed when they still use the old ones, which is called perceived obsolescence.
Additionally, corporation also promote consumption through advertising. Despite earning a lot of money for selling the products, corporation still don’t want to build the plant for solving trash in the disposal stage, so they “export” trash to another place. Some corporations try to persuade customers that they contribute effort to clean up the environment by recycling, but the fact is that not every trash can be recylced. Moreover, the trash which can be recylced counts a very small portion of the total trash, which is created through production.
Finally, people is the very important factor to be analyzed in researching sustainable production and consumption. They are considered to not own the resources in their homeland becuse they don’t have the production method and didn’t buy too much stuffs. As a result, they don’t have any value, which, in turns, leads to the result that they have no options for job. Consequently, they have to leave their hometowns, move to the cities, work in toxic plants. Those workers includes women in pregnant.
That’s the reason why human breast milk is the food that contains the highest level of toxic chemicals, which is the incredible violation with baby. In the case of consumption, people trade off for their product consuming by smelling polluted air,which causes asthma and cancer rate, giving up children’s future (in Congo, 30% of children has to quit school to extract coltan – the metal used for producing low- price electronic devices) and most crisisly, giving up their health.
The reason for the trade off is that people are being valued by their consumption amout. For instance, one American consumes twice as 50 years ago. Nowadays, the economic material model makes people’s life become “plainer” : just working and shopping. However, there are many people still working for saving forest, protecting labor’s rights and fair trade, reorienting shopping perception, reducing trash, building the goverment for the people and by the people. In conclusion, people,government,corporation are three factors in “Story of Stuff’ video.
Their roles influence each other in production and consumption. Therefore, in order to build up a sustainable production and consumption, these three factors must support each other in a sufficent and green way. Goverment should use their power to take care of and watch out for their residents. Corporation should produce safe and useful stuff by using economical and green way. Finally, people should alternate their shopping behavior and be more aware of protecting their health and rights.