Destroying our self cycle
In the book “The Story Of Stuff” by Annie Leonard, consists of five chapters that make up a cycle on how we live our everyday lives. Our population is growing more every day which is resulting in higher demands. We need to make a solution that we are making more problems before we run out of time. Annie Leonard was born in 1964 in Seattle, Washington and she is also known as a critic of consumerism and also follows the genre of Ecology and Consumerism. She uses reality issues that we really need to change and touch on for our future. In this book, the five chapters include Extraction, Production, Distribution, Consumption and Disposal. Each chapter describes how each action is affecting us drastically.
Extraction is of chapter one while Production falls under two. In chapter one, Extraction included water, trees, gold/diamonds, petroleum, etc, which was anything that could be taken from the earth for our own use. We have extracted way more than we need which has resulted in problems and conflicts. Water is a resource that everyone is taking an abundance of which is slowly running out. A big issue of this is the droughts occurring in California and other places around the world. Another is the companies who use massive amounts of water to mix the dirt and water to make oil in Canada. Water is being extracted all over the world; freshwater includes only 2.5% which salt water is 97.5%. Another problem that most people would not know is the amount of gallons used to make American cars. “Producing a typical U.S car requires more than fifty times its weight in water, or more than 39,000 gallons” (Leonard, 15). Imagining all the cars in the U.S, this would require over billions of gallons if each person in the The U.S had their car, but they make way more to transport and sell to other countries which is a problem. Water is becoming a resource we really need to take care of because soon this fresh water we have will run out and we will all be in trouble. Conflict Minerals is another substance that is being extracted arising in many conflicts, hence given the name of “Conflict Minerals”. Most of this involves illegal work from child labour that have been forced by the Rebel groups to take all the valuable rocks and stones out of the ground. “They had participated in seizing diamond mines, forcing kidnapping citizens to mine diamonds, and then trading the diamonds for money and military support”. (Leonard, 26). This is all the involvement of those Rebel groups who extract diamonds from the forced kidnapping and use it for their own good. This is also a broader view of where we get these precious stones and sell them for so high in developed countries. Production is part of Chapter two where it takes over from the extraction part and starts producing. A good example of this is the cotton T-Shirts that we buy to wear. “For example, about half of the 176 cubic yards (135 cubic meters) of water used per year for cotton consumption per person in the United States come from outside the United States” (Leonard, 46). Producing items like these also take up a lot of the extraction used. Here for cotton t-shirts we see that the production has to sacrifice a lot of the extraction. Cotton plants love to absorb water which then means they gain a lot of pests. These pests a than then mixed in with the process which can be really harmful. Books are another item being processed every day that we use as a source of knowledge and interest. People should think about all wood sacrificed for being cut down to make paper and all the pulping from that. This also transitions into the thought of all that cost spent for this production to even arise. “In the United States, the demand for chemicals for pulp and paper production is projected to reach 20 billion tons in 2011, with the chemicals valued at $8.8 billion” (Leonard, 52). Here we are shown the price of the chemicals that are used for the production of our needs. The number is in the staggering billions which gives us our thoughts after reading of how much the costs are with producing all these items after we extract them. Both extraction and production of coursework hand in hand with each other because the next is the next step of the cycle. We learn more about the extraction price of even a life then affects the production of the product they risked their life getting.
Distribution is chapter three of the book which is the products being distributed all over the world and stores after being produced. Container Ships are really known for being placed overseas to send goods. They are also one of the highest polluting combustion sources too. “Trade-carrying cargo ships powered by diesel engines are among the world’s highest polluting combustion sources per ton of fuel… “Polluting from Marine Vessels Linked to Heart and Lung Disease” (Leonard, 113). These Container Ships are bringing so much pollution toward everyone which is really is really affecting that and also the costs that are involved with the needs of the ship to get to the destination. Wal-Mart is one of the biggest well-known stores in Canada and the United States. Whilst the distribution of the products “The annual salary of $19,165 (for a thirty-four-hour work week) is $2,000 below the U.S federal poverty line. By contrast, in 2007 Wal-Mart’s CEO, Lee Scott, earned $29.7 million, or 1,550 times the annual income of an average full-time Wal-Mart associate” (Leonard, 122). Wal-Mart is taking advantage of the distribution of the money to employees. Employees that work for a thirty-four-hour work week end up with a salary that is two thousand dollars below the salary line, while the CEO makes one thousand-five hundred and fifty more than that which starts to become a problem with the equality. It is becoming more and more corrupt which is leading the hard working people always being taken advantage of. Once all of the distribution is complete, it results in the consumption which the world is really greedy in taking a part in. When our over-consumption takes the best of us, our unhappy self-turns into an unhappy planet because we always desire for more and more. Our consumption can definitely lead us, humans, to be unhappy. Some of us love the idea of having lots of money, but once we get a hold of it, we tend to become selfish. Also once our desires are all met, some will distance from social relationships. “Meanwhile, increased unhappiness results from our deteriorating social relationships. Relationships with family, peers, colleagues, neighbors, and community members have proven… once our basic needs are met” (Leonard, 149). We are working so hard to achieve and maintain these goals because sometimes we push away our other priorities and focus on our selfish needs instead. The consumption then leads to the planet being unhappy with all of our excessive use. “Globally, GFN reports that we now consume the resources produced by the equivalent of 1.4 earths per year” (Leonard, 152). This consumption is leading to issues such as global warming, droughts, and even war-related issues because of the greed we let being put first. Our unhappy self will almost never be satisfied because we always need more and more which leads not only the planet to suffer, bur ourselves too when catastrophes arise.
Disposal is the last part of the cycle but also is the one that should be looked at the most. This occurs with us all and we are all guilty of either doing the wrong disposal method, throwing outs things that we should not or having to throw out a lot at a time. In this chapter, it had been discussing the different waste that is thrown out that being medical, electronic, demolition waste, etc. Medical waste and electronics are becoming both very common wastes that are being widely seen. Medical waste is so known that even in jobs when you start working, we are told to be aware of these needles and hazards because of AIDS and HIV. Another fear of the medical waste is when they are burned and toxins are released. “The catch is that incinerations burns not only the germs or viruses but also the material on which they’re hanging out, which is usually plastic. And burning that plastic creates toxic air emissions, which in turn causes diseases like asthma, neurological and reproductive problems, and cancer” (Leonard, 202). Once all this waste is thrown away and burned, it still releases these diseases which are ironic because it comes from the medical side which is supposed to be helping. Electronic waste has become also one of the most popular wastes. Our generation now at this time has their whole lives revolved around electronics. “The fastest growing, and most toxic, of today’s garbage, e-waste is increasing three times faster than the other municipal waste and is packed with hazardous metals and chemicals” (Leonard, 202). We are producing of a lot of new electronics which means out with the old and in with the new. Landfills come along with disposal which means we need more space to dump all of our garbage that we cannot handle anymore at these landfills which are starting to become very crowded. We need to look at other solutions to stop these disposals and lessen the stress of our next step is going to be because we need to take the first step of starting this.
The world runs off these five stages of the cycle which makes our economy grow. We really need to understand that our greed is becoming a real problem and the consequences are at high stakes now. The government has said there will be change but it seems like everything is just getting worse. I believe the small things that we do could really make a difference slowly if we act upon it and keep our nature healthy and world clean. Annie Leonard takes these five chapters and makes you really understand how each action is destroying the world and the people that have to suffer through this. Media Reviews looked upon this as something everyone should read because it involves all of us. “Starred Review. An important work for consumers of all ages” (Library Journal). We become all guilty at some point of doing something to destroy the world even if we do not know about it. Another review talked how it was a depressing reading but was straight to the point. “All this makes for depressing reading, and some humor and less priggishness would have helped. But Leonard conveys her message with clarity, urgency and sincerity…” (Publishers Weekly). It only becomes a depressing reading because we do not want to accept that horrible truth that we always want to push away. Annie Leonard expresses to us that if we do take any step forward to change all of these things will only get worse for us. It is for us to really put the effort in and save our world before we cannot save it anymore.