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Story of Stuff Essays

In “Story of Stuff” narrated by Annie Leonard generally discusses how materials flow through the economy on how and why. The materials of economy go through a system starting out with extraction which leads to production and after they make the materials it then gets distributed which is called distribution. Consumers then buy these products which is called consumption, and after they purchase it and make use of it then it goes to the trash can which is called disposal. These five steps of how materials flow through the economy is explained in her video. Extraction is where the people cut down all of the trees using up all the water and basic resources that are provided to us naturally. We use these resources to make our products which is harming the environment. Production uses the resources we cut down and take from the natural environment and mix it with harmful toxic chemicals and also takes energy to do this.
There are 100,000 synthetic chemicals in use to make all of these products. Not all of them have even been tested and could be very harmful to our environment. B.F.R.s which stands for brominated flame retardants is something very harmful that use to make our computers, appliances, couches, mattresses, and even our pillows. By using this toxic chemical to make things “fire proof” we are harming ourselves by using our own materials every day. Babies are getting the most toxins in their system because of mothers and using their normal products which are basically dipped in chemicals to preserve them. The mothers breast milk also have these toxins and that is how the babies are getting the most toxins out of anyone. The United States admits to at least releasing 4,000,000,000 pounds of pollution a year. So they moved the factories across the seas to try and eliminate the amount of pollution in the United States. Which did not really eliminate anything because by moving the factories and workers across seas it just made their environment worse and still came our way because of the winds and weather moving it across the seas. Distribution is the where the products are sold in a store that are made in the factories by the workers who are producing these products.
The main goal of distribution is to keep the prices very low so that the people will keep buying these products to keep the inventory moving. They are able to keep the prices so low by not paying their workers a large amount. This is where minimum wage comes into play. The workers get paid little as possible to keep the prices low in the store. Externalized costs is where you are paying for a product lower than its actual value because the costs are made up through taxes. These taxes are paid to the government which goes towards helping people with low income by providing them with food stamps and other resources based off of their income. The reason why they don’t make that much money is because they get paid minimum wage to keep the prices down in the stores. So in reality we are paying for something that is cheap but yet also paying to provide our works with food and other resources that are funded by the government. Consumption is the people who are buying the products they are called consumers. These consumers are the ones who are keeping the materials flowing through the economy. After purchasing a new item in the stores generally only lasts six months with our getting thrown away. The ultimate purpose is to produce more consumer goods. There are two strategies in viewing new products; Planned Obsolescence and Perceived Obsolescence. Planned Obsolescence is “designed for the dump” where the factories produce useless items to be dumped quickly as possible.
Perceived Obsolescence is changing the product and adding something new to make people buy the exact same thing just for a different look. An example of Perceived Obsolescence in modern days would be an iPhone. Every couple months generally around holidays they come out with the new most coolest iPhone. They do this by adding new features like a higher pixilated camera, faster technology, changing the color of the phone, changing the size and shape. People view all of these changes as a must have and buy a new iPhone even when they have one that works just as good yet they still toss it aside and get the newer version. Media also has a large impact on society. The advertisements they show on television make people feel self consciences about the items they have or they way they look. By making people feel this way they go out and purchase the newest items and change their hair color or length just to feel beautiful because that is what “society” wants. Disposal is where all the products go after use which is harming the environment. After putting your trash on the curb in a trash can it is taken to a landfill to be dumped or being incinerated and then dumped which is filling the air with even more harmful toxins and changing the environment and weather patterns.
By producing more and more goods the environment and economy is going through a crisis. All of these harmful toxins that are circling through our environment are affecting our surroundings and the health of living things. In chapter 8 it discusses Economic Anthropology and they study production, distribution, and consumption of different cultures and how it affects things. I have learned that all of the products they are using have toxic chemicals in them to preserve our foods, clothing, and other material items. By using all of these products it is harming ourselves and when they are being made it is harming our environment. The prices are low because the workers are not getting paid as much as they should be and by not paying them are taxes are high which supports the unpaid workers who sell the items that we buy.

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