We began by reviewing last week’s field experiments, in which we measured the speed of sound by timing three repeat echoes off an isolated house (getting a result of 1010 feet per second). Rob explained how we can use that figure to tell how far away lightning is striking as a storm approaches. We had also heard echoes from the forests on either side of the field, at a higher pitch than those from the flat wall of the house. How come?

Photo of industrial-scale loggingThen we turned to watch the famous 2007 video, “The Story of Stuff,” which was written and narrated by Annie Leonard. In this animated documentary, Leonard explains the story behind the consumer society we all, willingly or not, take part in. Behind all the material things we buy is an unsustainable linear system that begins with destructive resource extraction and toxin-generating manufacturing and finishes in pollution-generating disposal.

Photo of a couple's weekly garbage output
She said that recycling by individuals like us is still important, but that what goes on in the other parts of the production-and-disposal chain is so much bigger that we have to understand and deal with that, too.

To Rob, one of the most significant elements in the story is the tale of how the system of planned obsolescence was invented. In other words, the drive to buy, consume, and throw away is somebody’s idea, lived by billions of people from birth to death. This isn’t “just the way the world is;” it doesn’t have to be this way.