Customer Review

51 of 70 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good concept, some problems with execution, March 27, 2010
This review is from: The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change (Hardcover)
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The author presents some good concepts and has ideas and ideals worth exploring. But unfortunately, she relies too heavily on disinformation and logical fallacies in making some points and prescribing some solutions. The book isn't rife with such things, but it contains more of them than it should.

This does two things. First, some people are going to zero in on the errors and go sour on the whole book. Second, the book falls fails to realize its potential in being a persuasive work that motivates and empowers readers to do something about the problems presented.

In short, her approach weakens most of her message. This is a shame, because she makes several points that I feel need to be heard. She characterizes our "consumer culture" with pretty fair accuracy, and correctly hits on a core problem (television). She talks about reducing waste by reducing it at its source. This is really the best way.

An example of "reduce at the source" is aluminum cans. These are most often used in the USA to package a toxic brew known as "soda," but which I prefer to call osteoporosis in a can. The junk inside the can serves no purpose except maybe as an industrial solvent. The can itself has value, but gets thrown away after only a few minutes of use.

When people are passionate about something, it's easy for them to lose healthy skepticism about "facts" and arguments that support their viewpoint. And they are also more likely to be swayed by logical fallacies. I saw evidence of this throughout the book. What Ms. Leonard states as fact is, in some cases, simply not true. And in some cases, the conclusion doesn't necessarily follow. I had to keep reminding myself that she's generally got the right idea.

Some of her points reflect a narrow world view derived from statist propaganda. Sifting those out of the book requires some patience.

On many points, I think she's right on. I'm fairly in synch with her ideas of how people can live in less slavery to material items and the consumer culture.

I especially appreciate her take on the brainwashing machines that many people voluntarily install in their homes. These machines are euphemistically referred to as "televisions." Brainwashing via these machines has something in common with washing wool in your clothes washer: shrinkage. Chronic television watching significantly atrophies the reasoning structures of the brain, and in fact a medical examiner can tell the brain of a reader and a typical television watcher apart just by looking.

As I'm partial to my brain (we've been together a long time), I don't expose it to the ravages of television. I'm always delighted when an author provides yet another reason or three to avoid this mentally damaging activity.

But just when I was thinking she must have taken the red pill (allusion to The Matrix), she would to revert to blue pill thinking on some issues. On several points, there is a big gap between what she sees and what is. The statist propaganda and Democratic Party talking points did more harm than good to this book. If she publishes a second edition or a sequel, I hope she will replace those bits with real information and thus be more persuasive to thinking people.

This book is about 300 pages long. It consists of 5 chapters, an epilogue, 3 appendices, and end notes. The five chapters each address a different aspect about the flow of "stuff" that is trashing the planet. These are:

1. Extraction.
2. Production.
3. Distribution.
4. Consumption.
5. Disposal.

In each of these five areas, there are problems ranging from significant to insignificant. The author's discussion of each would be better if she stuck to what she can address accurately. Where she's right, it's not necessary to add material that's questionable (or worse).

My recommendation is to buy the book and seriously think about the major points Annie Leonard makes about "stuff." If you want to pursue things further, the extensive end notes will help you with that
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Tracked by 3 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 28, 2010 1:42:14 PM PDT
J. Green says:
Thanks for a very amusing (& articulate!) review. It was a joy to read. Too bad you can't help her edit the book. Annie's one of my heroes! (

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 1, 2010 4:11:08 AM PDT
and yet you didn't mention one specific fact she got wrong!!

Posted on Apr 8, 2010 10:56:03 PM PDT
Paul Martin says:
Very good review.

Posted on Apr 14, 2010 8:40:43 AM PDT
McBee says:
I agree with Ms. Windrose Morris....... where are the facts she got wrong? If in fact they are wrong it would be helpful to know what is correct.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 26, 2010 12:26:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 26, 2010 12:35:28 PM PDT
Wade Moore says:
This might help...

Or this...

And maybe this (funny)...

Posted on May 4, 2010 4:04:28 PM PDT
Phillips says:
I enjoyed your descriptive definitions "toxic brew known as "soda," "osteoporosis in a can", "brain washing machine", however, the review would be more useful to me if it criticized less and gave more hard-fact examples of where exactly AL constantly "got it wrong".

Posted on Jun 23, 2010 2:09:13 PM PDT
M. Enriquez says:
I think there is intelligent tv and dumb tv. I watch the former. One cannot categorise it all the way you do. In fact, even" stuff" and its inherent problematic diversities cannot be simply categorized. Anyways, I love the osteoporosis in a can though. GREAT!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 23, 2010 2:11:03 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 23, 2010 2:11:23 PM PDT]

Posted on Jul 27, 2010 8:36:24 AM PDT
Phil Trip says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

Posted on May 11, 2011 8:04:32 AM PDT
Very Helpful Review, Anyone have a suggestion for Sustainable/Conserative living guides that are less biased?
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Review Details



M. L Lamendola

Location: Merriam, KS USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 1,631