Stuff has a story - and it's us

Brad M. Griffin | Jun 15, 2009

Photo by Charles Deluvio

Looking for some interesting fodder for a youth group talk focused on justice this summer? Try The Story of Stuff. It’s not a church curriculum video. It’s a truth-telling video by a maverick storyteller who cares about global injustice.

Annie Leonard trekked the world for 10 years and along the way tracked “the materials economy” — the way we trash the planet to get what we want, and then leave behind our garbage. Not just a little garbage. 99% of the stuff that runs through the global production system is trashed within six months in the U.S. And throughout the process we oppress people who have no voice.

You might want to check out and use copies of the fact sheet that includes a short set of stats like:

  • The average person in the U.S. consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago.

  • Average house size (NOT household size, physical house size) has doubled since the 1970s.

  • Each person in the U.S. makes 4.5 lbs of garbage per day.That’s twice what we made 30 years ago.

Think Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, add a distinct concern for oppressed people, delivered in animated white-board style, and wrapped up in 20 minutes. Whew.

One of the pieces of truth-telling captured early in this documentary: “In this system, if you don’t own or buy a lot of stuff, you don’t have value.” This is Leonard’s conclusion after years of exploring the system from the inside. That conclusion should move us to action. Not because it’s some agenda of a “crazy liberal-environmentalist-socialist” (or whatever tag you’d like to place on someone like Leonard if you have a hard time identifying with her). But because it’s God’s issue.

If you use this with students, I’d love to hear about the discussion—and action—afterward!

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, blogger, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and the series Can I Ask That?: 8 Hard Questions about God and Faith. Brad and his family live in Southern California.


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