Photographer and film maker Kate Schermerhorn seems obsessed with the notion of happiness: in addition to her previous documentary AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER (which, as you’ll probably guess, focused on marriage), she’s also the author of the photography book America’s Idea of a Good Time (which explores our “pursuit of happiness” broadly). If you’re going to dig into such a topic, and particularly its most American incarnations, you’re going to end up at the mall: we love acquiring stuff so much that we now refer to shopping as “retail therapy.” But how happy do the things we buy make us, and what are the larger costs associated with those moments of pleasure?
story of stuff
Moore’s law, the idea that computing power should double every eighteen months, may be the ultimate sign of progress for a techie… and there’s no doubt that much good has come from our ability to process more amounts of information faster. But what’s the environmental cost of this progress? Annie Leonard deals with that question in the latest video from The Story of Stuff Project: “The Story of Electronics.”
The folks at The Story of Stuff Project have been keeping busy! In early March, Annie Leonard’s book The Story of Stuff came out; later that month, the project released “The Story of Bottled Water” for World Water Day. This month, the project moves in some interesting new directions: on Earth Day, they announced the release of Let There Be… Stuff?, “a six-session curriculum that helps Christian teenagers explore the relationship between their consumption, their faith, and the health of the planet.”
While The Story of Stuff has been used for educational purposes since the launch of the first web video, the move into churches (and eventually synagogues… a Jewish version comes out this summer) demonstrates the power of the “creation care” movement. According to the Project, faith leaders began reaching out almost immediately after the original Story of Stuff video came out. In response, The Story of Stuff Project partnered with Green Faith, an “interfaith coalition for the environment,” to produce the curriculum.
In internet time, Annie Leonard’s The Story Of Stuff is relatively old. But the 2007 web video, produced by Free Range Studios and funded by the Tides Foundation and Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption (among others) has attained cult status in American classrooms. According to the New York Times, teachers around the country use the video to supplement environmental education textbooks that often lack information on recent scientific discoveries.
Creative teaching, right? Not in Missoula County, Montana, where the school board responded to a parent’s complaint about the video’s “anti-capitalist” message with a decision that use of The Story of Stuff “violated its standards on bias.”