"You cannot run a linear system on a finite planet indefinitely," which is bad news for an economy and lifestyle that depends on meeting an artificially created consumer demand, continuously, with an accelerating use of natural resources and nonrenewable sources of energy. Americans, with 5% of the world's population, consume 30% of its resources, manufacturing everything from bottled water to new cars. Eventually, a lot of the stuff we manufacture and consume winds up as waste, which brings us to the point of Leonard's The Story of Stuff. Leonard follows the "life cycle" of some of our most popular consumer goods, including, yes, bottled water. Unfortunately, even when we think we're being green by using recyclable containers (such as aluminum cans), the amount of energy needed and the economic factors involved in choosing between recycled and new materials undermines our good intentions. First we consume, and then we dispose of billions of pounds of material every year.
Leonard's book is a spin-off from internet videos on consumerism (which can be found at http://www.storyofstuff.com/). She felt that there was more to cover on the topic than she could do justice to on a website and blog, and that the issues needed as comprehensive a treatment as possible. Along the way, she shows how positive change is happening now, part of her "vision for change" in the way we live and how the choices we make affect us and the world we live in. Leonard believes she has enough reason for her tempered optimism and belief that we can turn things around, but reminds us that it will take a lot of commitment from all of us to bring about such change. And yes, Leonard points out the role that libraries play in reducing the amount of "stuff" out there without compromising anything: "And then there are libraries--in every place I've lived, the library has been one of my favorite places to find books, as well as to meet neighbors, attend public seminars, weigh in on community issues, and sometimes even hear live music. Amazon may be easy and fast and impressive in its scale, but it just doesn't provide those quality-of-life extras." (p. 120)
Submitted by Chris G. @ Bay View & Tippecanoe