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Goodbye Overconsumption: Why the Commons Can Save Us From Drowning in Too Much Stuff

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Breaking The Chains page.
Annie Leonard is one of the most articulate, effective champions of the commons today. Her webfilm The Story of Stuff has been seen more than 15 million times by viewers. She also adapted it into a book.

Drawing on her experience investigating and organizing on environmental health and justice issues in more than 40 countries, Leonard says she's "made it her life's calling to blow the whistle on important issues plaguing our world."

She deploys hard facts, common sense, witty animation and an engaging "everywoman" role as narrator to probe complex problems such as the high costs of consumerism, the influence of corporate money in our democracy, and government budget priorities.

In 2008, she founded the Story of Stuff Project, to help people get involved in making the decisions that affect their future and to create new webfilms on critical issues such as The Story of Citizens United and The Story of Bottled Water. Her most recent film The Story of Broke, provides a riveting rebuttal to claims that America can no longer afford health and social protections.

Here Leonard answers a few questions about the importance of the commons in her life, work and the world.

Jay Walljasper: What are a few of the most beloved commons in your life and community?

Annie Leonard: I asked this question to our Story of Stuff team over lunch recently and the conversation lit up as we each called out commons we cherish most. We identified cultural commons that add such richness to our lives (music, recipes, the amazing murals in San Francisco), physical commons that we use daily (the library, bike lanes and dog parks ranked high); social commons that make the broader society better for all (teachers, health care providers, the woman who helps pedestrians cross the street at a particularly busy intersection near our office). We also thought of another category, which I'll call aspirational commons: hope, passion, commitment, the future. These belong to all of us, and it is up to all of us to protect and nourish them-because a society without hope and passion, and without a possibility-rich future, is a dreary society indeed. And, of course, our democracy: it belongs to all of us and only works when we all engage.