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Annie Leonard’s ‘Story of Solutions’ Shows How to Create Change By Fixing a Broken System (Video)

A Q&A with the Story of Stuff Project founder about her new video on the biggest obstacles to change and how we can overcome them.
 
 
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Annie Leonard’s groundbreaking video, The Story of Stuff, awakened millions of people to the repercussions of our consumer culture. Now she’s taking on an even bigger campaign—transforming our flawed economic system and calling for a new conversation about how we can create meaningful change. The Story of Solutions, the newest video from Leonard and her Story of Stuff project, encourages viewers to push for solutions that change the economy’s goal from “more” to “better.”

In the video, Leonard says: “Changing the goal of the entire economy is a huge task. Of course, we can’t do it all at once. But when we focus on game-changing solutions, we gradually make it possible for a new game to be played.”

Leonard further discussed the new video, change and obstacles to it with AlterNet. 

Alyssa Figueroa: What inspired you to create The Story of Solutions?

Annie Leonard: I’ve been so surprised at the response to The Story of Stuff in terms of how many people have seen it — it’s now past 30 million views. But what’s surprised me more is the number of folks who’ve written to ask us for additional films, and by far the most requested one is The Story of Solutions. A lot of people say, “It’s nice the problem is outlined, but what can we do?”

Its been nearly six years since I released The Story of Stuff, and the reason I didn’t do The Story of Solutions right away is because there were a lot of questions that came in from people about specific aspects of what’s wrong with the economy. And there were so many questions about what they can personally do. So first we did a series of films about problems with the materials economy—about manufactured demand and toxic products and our throwaway culture—that were made in partnership with groups that had the capacity to handle tens of thousands of people coming to them to get involved. Because in the beginning it was just me and a couple other people here. We didn’t have the capacity to handle the interest, so we started working with groups to which we could direct our viewers.

The thing is, I began to see that the kind of solutions work that many folks were doing was too often addressing the symptom rather than the drivers of the problem. And even if folks were advancing really good, deep, transformational solutions, there were some common, consistent barriers in their way. There are so many different solutions, but we keep running up against the same obstacles, so that’s what we address in The Story of Solutions.

It was interesting to think through our contribution to the discussion about solutions. When word got out we were making this, dozens of environmental organizations emailed me and said, “My solution is in there, right?” You know, green chemistry or recycling or renewable energy. And I said, “No, actually it’s not. This is not a list of solutions.” Partly because that would be a list and that would be boring. And also because solutions are really different depending on where you are. I can’t really say, “This is how you do transportation” because it’s different if you’re in Boston or Bombay. So rather than giving boring lists of solutions, we decided to inspire people to think more deeply about the kinds of solutions we need.

We don’t use these words in the film because we try to be as accessible as possible, but really it’s a look at transactional solutions and transformational solutions. By that I mean there are a bunch of fundamental, structural flaws in our economy and government today. And transactional solutions try to advance a solution within that fundamentally flawed structure. Transactional solutions aren’t always bad, like banning lead or banning DDT. Those were transactional solutions that thank God they happened. Children are smarter and people are healthier today because of those. So transactional solutions aren’t always bad. But they don’t try to transform this overwhelmingly flawed structure. Whereas transformational solutions begin to transform that flawed structure. What I’m saying in the film is, absent the deeper transformational solutions, all of our individual work for solutions on any front is going to be a) not enough; and b) really, really hard.

 
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