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Annie Leonard Takes On The Occupy Movement With "Story Of Broke"

The mind behind "The Story of Stuff" delves into our economic system. We’re not broke, we’re just living in a broken system.

Annie Leonard has a knack for making short, entertaining videos that explain some of the most pressing issues of the day, including bottled water, toxic cosmetics, electronics, and corporate influence. In her latest video, The Story Of Broke, Leonard discusses how a shift in government spending toward renewable energy, better materials, cleaner chemistry, and zero-waste projects could revive both our environment and the job market. We’re not really broke, she says, it’s just that our economic system is broken.

Leonard actually started working on the Story Of Broke concept long before the Occupy Wall Street movement began. "As I travel around talking, I like to see how conversations are bubbling up in different parts of the country," she says. "What I hear now a lot from community leaders trying to make the world better is that municipalities turn to them and say we can’t do that, we’re broke." But, says Leonard, it’s not that we’re broke—we are just allowing our money to prop up a dinosaur economy.

There are admittedly some subsidies available for renewable energy projects, but Leonard wonders why "we giving public money to super mature, profitable oil and gas companies" instead of more cash for the companies that really need it.

The filmmaker stresses that she’s not anti-subsidy; she just wants to see more support for environmentally friendly projects—the kinds of things that will keep our oil-reliant economy from continuing its deathly spiral. "If solar companies were having record profits, I’d say let’s stop subsidizing them too. Once they’re raking in the profits, it’s not the public’s job to put the icing on the profit cake," she says.

So what should the government subsidize? "We need to be supporting companies that are helping all of us," she says. "I personally got a solar system and super energy efficient windows because there were some tax breaks for that. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to see."

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  • Michael Reardon

    Many of the existing energy companies grew on the back of subsidies over a very long past and indeed here in the UK were in the public sector for generations largely because, while they were essential service providers , they could not generate profits that attracted private finance. Or alternatively they would not have been able to make and sustain investments of the size ,length and stability  needed to create mass energy networks ( which typically need to have a 25 to 50 year timeline). 
    Again in the UK there has been a trend towards not 'picking winners' in terms of any specific company but making sure that broader market conditions  - such as regulation,incentives,tax breaks, hidden subsidies - do not favour existing over new technologies.

  • Freud0506

    Good idea. Stop spending on defence, that will save billions and your never meet it will you? Your never need it to defend yourself, to drive technology or to go and rescue people kidnapped by pirates or to defend food shipments to starving waring countries. Cool.

  • Vianna

    This film doesn't offer any specifics or context and therefore has no credibility. (There are outright errors, as well.) It might be clever to use fun graphics and simple language, but when the message is cartoonish and simplistic, it's not really worthwhile.

  • Vianna

    Seriously? Has this filmmaker not heard of Solyndra? Subsidies tend to
    prop up businesses that the market won't support. Meaning, businesses
    that are not sustainable economically. Please, Google Solyndra for a
    perfect example.

  • tcskelton

    So you advocate replacing the bad old Crony Capitalism with a newer, greener-form of Crony Capitalism?  Hmmm, what could go wrong? 

  • Freud0506

    It will work as long as she can pick the good companies, what we need is one good person to decide for the greater good. Someone who can look after the common man so every one is equal. That would work well.

  • Ross Patton

    I see what you're saying, but I think you might be dramatizing it a bit. If anything instead of subsidies we could give tax breaks to encourage people/companies to make environmentally/socially responsible investments. Right now we tend to just hand over bushels of cash to the companies with the best lobbyists. Whether it's ExxonMobil or Solyndra, it doesn't tend to work out.

    Personally I'd rather just see campaign finance reform. End lobbyism and corporate personhood and the priorities of those we elect will change real fast.

  • Amber J. Adams

    This is great! I love the simple breakdown. For the first time, I understand what the heck is happening!