Annie Leonard: hero or communist sympathizer?

Annie Leonard’s video “The Story of Stuff,” was the single strongest influence on me during my first year on The Compact (I’m almost halfway through my second already).

So I was happy to see her on The Colbert Report and learn that she’d written a book of the same name. The idea that we should all be aware of where our stuff comes from and try to move toward a more sustainable model for the future seems like common sense to me. But of course, it’s a big threat to those who have a lot invested in our endless pursuit of buying more and more cheaply made throwaway products. And it turns out what she’s doing is much more subversive than it appears at first glance.

She’s an author, environmental activist, sustainability expert, and consumerist critic. And now her critics are calling her a lot of other things. Check out this article from the Denver Post about Leonard, called “Crusading for Mindful Consumption,” and let us know what you think in the Comments section. Is she a positive force or a dangerous radical whose ideas would cause our economy to crater?

And if you haven’t watched “The Story of Stuff,” you can watch it here. And click here to see her on The Colbert Nation if you want a laugh with your news.


  1. Mary Martha says

    I don't think she is a 'dangerous radical' however I do think that her 'Story of Stuff' is sort of deceptive. It is absolutely one sided (which is fine) but presented as though it is even handed (which is the problem).

    I am glad that she is getting her position out there – it has started lots of great discussions about consumerism.

    However, I think that fans of the video who take it as the gospel truth might want to check out responses such as the youtube response 'The story of stuff, The critique'.

    The issues at hand are much, much more complex and complicated than she presents them.

  2. Angela says

    Mary Martha- The "dangerous radical" was a bit tongue in cheek, but I think her main contribution is to get us to THINK about where this stuff comes from, where it goes, and whether or not we really need it. Speaking for myself, a lot of my consumption was indeed "mindless."

  3. Lacey says

    There are always two sides to every story. I think she's a radical but not dangerous. I think most of us who are reading this blog are probably considered radical compared to our more "mainstream" friends and family. While being radical is stereotypically a negative thing, it doesn't always have to be :)


  4. Angela says

    Lacey- Wow, "radicals" are reading my blog! I love it! My husband will be so proud…

    I do have to step back and realize I'm somewhat out of the mainstream sometimes, but really in many ways I am very much part of the mainstream- I'm married, have a job (more than one), own a house, pay taxes, etc. But not buying stuff? Now, THAT's radical! Ha! Thanks for your comment.

  5. Emily, Bob and Etta says

    I personally believe that if you economy if based solely on buying stuff and throwing it away there is something wrong. Even if it is one sided it rings very true. Just take a look around the next time you are in a mall food court and notice how much waste is being thrown away just from what people are eating off of just at that time. Frightening I think.

  6. WyldeSage says

    While I agree that we consume way too much stuff, she doesnt give any real solutions to lessen all of this stuff that ends up in the landfills. She is a bit one sided one the issue, but it does need to be brought to light. I think we all need to learn from our ancestors who learned to live and appreciate family, and they didnt need STUFF!!

  7. psmflowerlady says

    I think she brings up valid points that merit additional discussion and for that reason, I really admire her for challenging us to consider and discuss. I know that although I disagree with some of her "facts", I have looked at my consumerism in a new light and subsequently changed my behaviors somewhat radically. I don't know that my behavior changes were a result of "The Story of Stuff" specifically, but it did get me thinking and being more aware. I honestly get more inspiration from your and similar blogs where I can see real people (or radicals if the term applies ;)!) making on the ground changes. But by and large, I prefer to be inspired to change to being shamed to change. To each her own.

  8. Marie-Josée says

    The solution she proposes in "The Story of Stuff" is to stop and think before consuming products, such as: Do I really need it? Can I get it second hand?

    The fact remains that the planet cannot sustain the rythm of consumption of North Americans and Europeans. There are simply not enough raw materials, water and energy to provide our lifestyle to everyone on this planet, not even factoring in the environmental impact of billions of people owning cars, computers, ipods, appliances…

    We are deporting the ugly side of our consumption to countries in the world where labor is cheap and where environmental laws are either inexistant or very lax.

    The world economy is built on the premise of continual growth. All of our investments, our pension funds, social security, 401K's, Roth IRA's, RSSP's (for Canadians) rely on this growth. My provincial government is severly indebtted (+120 billion) and our government funded programs (education and health) gobble up about 80% of tax revenues. Baby boomers are heading for retirement and we don't have a clue how we will fund our schools, health care, social security, retirement funds with a big chunk of people leaving the work force and ceasing to pay as many taxes. This is an issue that most developped nations are facing. 40% of Quebecers are already considered too poor to pay taxes…

    The assumption that the economy can continue to grow forever is incorrect in my opinion, because there are finite ressources (think clean water, oil, therefore gas and uranium for example).

    It is very short sighted to accuse Annie Leonard of being radical, when mindless consumption will lead us more quickly to a severly contracted economy. Best to be proactive and begin choosing to spend our money on more sustainable and regional products, so that we have thriving regional economies when and if, the big crunch arrives.

  9. Betsy Talbot says

    We're in the process of selling almost everything we own – including house and car – to travel around the world. Most people I know think we are a little bit crazy, but more than a few have told me they are envious of the freedom we will have. They cringe when they think of all their stuff.

    Can you believe we hold onto stuff that makes us cringe? I mean, really. And think of all the things it is keeping us from doing.

    This is a huge problem that has no easy answers on a large scale, but I like that she has made us individually think about it and make personal changes. And that can't be a bad thing.

    Viva la resistance!

  10. David Bowie says

    "While I agree that we consume way too much stuff, she doesnt give any real solutions to lessen all of this stuff that ends up in the landfills."

    She does present a lot of solutions in the book, if you care to read it.

    And who said she has to come up with ALL the solutions? She's done more for this world with her work than most of us will ever do in our entire lifetime. Try to come up with some solutions yourself, instead of expecting them to be spoonfed to you, or expecting one person to solve everything on her own. Jesus!

    And I think it's about time that americans stop dismissing everyone who presents and alternative lifestyle as a "communist". It's old, it's ignorant, it comes from 50 year-old propaganda, so, let's try to leave Stupid States of America once, for a change.

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