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  • English Conversation and Listening: The Story of Stuff

    Ever seen the Story of Stuff? It’s a short video that has been used in many school rooms around the world to teach some environmental concepts to students. We thought it would also make a good English listening exercise video, as wall as a great topic for a conversation class.

    The video has been somewhat controversial in some part of the United States. This New York Times article talks about controversy caused by the video in Missoula, Montana, a city about 3 hours south of where Teauna and I live. Here’s a quote from the article:

    Mark Zuber, a parent of a child at Big Sky High School in Missoula, had a stronger reaction when a teacher showed the video to his daughter last year. “There was not one positive thing about capitalism in the whole thing,” Mr. Zuber said.Corporations, for example, are portrayed as a bloated person sporting a top hat and with a dollar sign etched on its front.

    He described the video as one-sided. “It was very well done, very effective advocacy, but it was just that,” he said.

    Mr. Zuber argued before the Missoula County School Board that the way in which “The Story of Stuff” was presented, without an alternative point of view, violated its standards on bias, and the board agreed in a 4-to-3 vote.

    The title of the video pretty accurately summarizes its content. Annie Leonard, the video’s creator, talks about how “stuff” whether that be a computer, a radio or a plastic bag, is made, consumed and disposed of, from beginning to end. It paints a negative picture of our system, from how people are treated in countries where “stuff” is made, to environmental issues and human happiness. Watch the video below, and see if you can answer the questions. Contact us if you would like to take group or individual English conversation classes.

      Well, I looked ____ __ a little ___ more.

      All along the way, it’s ______ up ______ limits.

      What does this mean?

      Here, we are ______ __ against our first limit.

      Where I live in the United States, we have less than 4 percent of our ________ forests left.

      How does the word added to the previous sentence change its meaning?

      If everybody consumed at the US rates, we _____ ____ 3 to 5 planets, and ___ ___ ___? We’ve only ___ one.

      Which some _____ ___ is another word for ___ ____ that ______ ___ on somebody else’s land.

      What happens in this system if you don’t own or buy a lot of stuff?

      Are you still using your pillow?

      We could think of a ______ ___ to ___ our _____ from ________ on ____ at night.

      How could $4.99 possibly capture the costs of ______ this radio and _____ into my hands?

      What are stewardship, resourcefulness and thrift?

      What is the ultimate goal of the US economy, according to the video?

      What is the difference between planned and perceived obsolescence?

      Why won’t recycling be enough?

      It’s ___ not _______.

      Do you think it is possible to live in a way that would not have the impact on the earth that the video talks about? Have you tried consuming less? Do you think people judge each other for the way they consume?

      Do you think this video is an accurate description of how things are in the world?