How shopping can help save the planet

The activist and filmmaker Annie Leonard, who created an Internet sensation back in 2007 with her 20-minute animated movie The Story of Stuff (viewed more than 15 million times) is back with the new video called The Story of Change.

In the video, she urges “viewers to put down their credit cards and start exercising their citizen muscles” to build a more just, sustainable and fulfilling world.

Turning for inspiration to Gandhi and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., she argues that buying “green” is no substitute for the hard work of political organizing.

“The solutions we really need are not for sale at the supermarket,” she says.

The movie runs for about six minutes. Take a look below.

The idea that we need to take political action to deal with big environmental and social problem is both inarguable and unremarkable. It should be obvious that we can’t shop our way to the regulation of carbon pollution or to a more equitable tax system.

But I think Leonard has it exactly backwards when it comes to the power of consumers. Like many on the left, she seems to define people as "good" because we pursue health, happiness and well-being and corporations as "bad" because they pursue profits, exploit and pollute. But, for the most part, we get the corporations that we deserve. Those that meet the needs of people thrive. Those that fail to satisfy will wither away. Put simply, the power of consumers is formidable.

Illustration of woman with shopping bags courtesy of Zoom Team via Shutterstock.

Next page: Illustrations of consumer clout