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The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard

I am more of a fiction person and non-fictions are restricted for those days of really serious reading (which I rarely do). I received this book from Free Press and was hesitant to start it; moving it lower down my TBR pile for lighter reads. When I eventually picked it up I was shocked by the amount of information it held and my total lack of concern for the environment.

The book is split into 5 sections as “Extraction”, “Production”, “Distribution”, “Consumption” and “Disposal”.

Did you know that one in six people don’t have access to safe drinking water and every day thousands of people die because they don’t have access to clean water?
Did you know that over half of the mine workers in Rajasthan, India have developed lung diseases?
Did you know that in the process of getting to Coltan (mineral used in cellphones) many national parks were destroyed, children ruthlessly employed and woman brutally raped in Congo?

There is so much information in the book that it is overwhelming. I never knew, that the cotton T-shirt that we so love generates about 5 pounds of CO2. Not to mention the miseries of the people who work at minimum wages to give the T-shirt its final shape. I don’t think I will be shopping for one soon or replacing my old clothes.. and if I do, I am going to go Organic.

While talking about leading internet distributors (Amazon) and the advantages of shopping online, Annie also answers to the critics who are concerned about the lack of a personal experience. Walking to local bookstores, getting a personal experience and lending the recommended book to others would be an ideal solution. The library and book sharing are just few suggestions she makes to maintain the quality-of-life extras.

It is a simple question: Are we happy today? We are earning more, buying more and owning more stuff than we did fifty years ago but we are definitely not “more happy”. Apparently consumption (read over-consumption) does not bring delight.
There is another interesting thing that she pointed out about ads. Did you notice that since brands cannot distinguish themselves from others they don’t even bother to describe their product anymore in their ads? They associate it with an image or a social status implying for us to be like the people who come on those ads. So true! As I sit here typing this and being way more observant of the ads on TV, this is exactly what I see. A social status! Yes, I need to look like her, get her smile, have that furniture….
She talks about embracing simplicity and sufficiency by quoting religious sources.

Buddhist: “Whoever in this world overcomes his selfish cravings, his sorrows fall away from him, like drops of water from a lotus flower.” (Dhammapada, 336)

In disposal she mentions how there is no “Away” for the trash. It has to go somewhere and wherever it goes the impact would be the same – disastrous. After reading the whole book I don’t believe in disposing anything.. seriously just don’t buy too much and don’t waste stuff.

The book is a eye-opener. There are a few sections that gets pretty boring because of the elaborate details; but the book needed it to convey the message. In almost every section possible there is a personal touch, an example that we could relate too; heard off; feel guilty about – Anne’s water scarce stay in Bangladesh, her daughter’s brand excitements, her recycled gold ring, the death of Damour during the Walmart Thanksgiving day stampede.. and so many more.

There is just way too much information we don’t know .. information which if we knew; would change our lives and the lives of others. Annie Leonard provides that to us in this well written book.

This book helped me develop a deeper respect for my kith and kin back home in India who shop less, use less and reuse more.

PS: I am not using my usual layout for this review as that is restricted to fictions.

I received a complimentary copy of The Story of Stuff by Free Press in exchange for my honest review.



2 Responses

  1. All I can say is wow! It is easier to live in ignorance but necessarily better. A greater change would take place for the world and mankind if more people would read this! Thanks for the review!

  2. I cant agree more with you. Reading such books give us that wake up call that we so need most of the times..

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