Story of Stuff is a Youtube video that explains in easy to understand language the impact on people and the planet’s natural resources from the so called global materials economy. Much of the video will resonate with expats who have seen first hand, the pace of globalization in Costa Rica.
In the past 3 decade, we have used one third of the planet’s natural resources space. We are cutting, mining and hauling and trashing the place, so fast that we are undermining the planet’s very ability for people to live here.
In, Costa Rica globalization has moved from materials extraction into manufacturing and the export of technology and services. Examples include Intel’s microchip plant in Heredia, the popularity of medical device manufacturing and companies like Kimberly-Clark and Proctor and Gamble. Most of these larger companies also setup service centers so that worldwide administration and support is done from Costa Rica.
Costa Rica has its roots as an exporter of coffee, bananas, pineapple and palm oil. However, as costs increase global firms look elsewhere for cheap resources. A good example is the closure of the open pit gold mining project in Las Crucitas, which folded due to political pressure.
The video also describes externalized costs, such as health care for workers. The issue now takes up a big part of the political agenda in Costa Rica as it has in the United States. Less developed nations are usually less concerned with enduring external costs as they are with maintaining social order. Colombia with its frequent strikes and civil unrest is a better example of a global resource economy.
Pollution is perhaps the biggest externalized cost, and is an issue that resonates with expats and Costa Ricans. The Tarcoles River is now the most populated river in Central America. It drains the central valley and much of the manufacturing in the free trade zones. This may be a reason for why Costa Rica wants to build the proposed free trade zone for China in the northern zone of the country.
Consumer consumption is the issue at the center of the Story of the Stuff. With income from globalization Ticos buy more stuff, and often go into debt at high interest rates. The cycle means they will work more and undermine their traditional easy going lifestyles. The more stuff they buy also takes up more space in landfills. Costa Rica produces more garbage per person than any other country in Central America.
Story of Stuff is the work of Filmmaker Annie Leonard, who wrote and narrated the video, which was funded by Tides Foundation, Funders Workgroup for Sustainable Production and Consumption, Free Range Studios and other foundations. It was first launched online on December, 2007 and has been viewed 2.3 million times.
Annie has also written a full length book under the same title, Story of Stuff.