Consumption week

This week has had a bit of a theme in various incarnations: consumption. It began on Saturday when I showed my Garbology students The Story of Stuff. It’s a hard movie to share with nine-year-olds because there are so many big words like “planned obsolescence”, but if you pause and explain at all the right moments it can work well to explain a lot of important aspects of consumption patterns and the toll it is taking on the planet.

Then in my hostel (eighth and ninth standard girls) I screened a new documentary, The True Cost, which is a brilliant film that explores the fashion industry and its relationship to waste. What I love about this film is that it takes you from the farmers growing the cotton (and Vandana Shiva is featured here, of course!) to the factory workers in Bangladesh, to designers in London. It shows you the entire food chain of the fashion industry forcing viewers to examine where they come into play. But the film doesn’t stop there. It also explores the role that the media and advertising play in pushing products on it. Psychologists are also featured who comment on the emptiness that this constant materialism and consumption plays in people’s lives. It really ties all aspects of waste together: from consumption to health problems to gloabalisation to waste to workers’ rights to the environment. I don’t know how you can watch this film and not question your own behaviour and habits the next time you go shopping. Here is a trailer of the film:

Finally in my English class this week I screened a short documentary called The Cost of Cool. This film contains elements of the previous two, although it’s not as good as the others in what it does. But it does do a nice job of getting teenagers to question what does “cool” mean and what role in plays in this chain of consumption and waste. Their first essays will be on this theme and their first task was to trace the argument and supporting evidence presented in the film.

While all of these films are quite specifically American, I think it’s important to show them to audiences in places like India, especially in places where children are growing up oriented towards Western culture. Because these same consumption habits are coming here and unless we want to succumb, we do need to resist and that resistance needs to start with awareness at the earliest possible age. The entire film is in three parts on Youtube:

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