Leslie Kaufman's front-page story Monday gave a hugeshot of publicity to "The Story of Stuff," a left-wing propaganda video aimed at kids made by environmental activist Annie Leonard - "In Schools, a Cautionary Video About America and Its 'Stuff.'"
The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.
Which is one reason"The Story of Stuff,"a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.
The video is a cheerful but brutal assessment of how much Americans waste, and it has its detractors. But it has been embraced by teachers eager to supplement textbooks that lag behind scientific findings onclimate changeand pollution. And many children who watch it take it to heart: riding in the car one day with his parents in Tacoma, Wash., Rafael de la Torre Batker, 9, was worried about whether it would be bad for the planet if he got a new set of Legos.
"When driving by a big-box store, you could see he was struggling with it," his father, David Batker, said. But then Rafael said, "It's O.K. if I have Legos because I'm going to keep them for a very long time," Mr. Batker recalled.
The video was created by Annie Leonard, a former Greenpeaceemployee and an independent lecturer who paints a picture of how American habits result in forests being felled, mountaintops being destroyed, water being polluted and people and animals being poisoned. Ms. Leonard, who describes herself as an "unapologetic activist," is also critical of corporations and the federal government, which she says spends too much on the military.
After noting that "six million people have viewed the film at its site, storyofstuff.com, and millions more have seen it on YouTube" and that Leonard has a book contract based on the video, Kaufman eventually conceded "The enthusiasm is not universal," citing a negative Montana school board decision and that "Corporations, for example, are portrayed as a bloated person sporting a top hat and with a dollar sign etched on its front." But Leonard certainly couldn't argue with the story's prominence.
Kaufman is the same reporter who wrote the widely mocked story about how cushy toilet paper was harming the planet: "But fluffiness comes at a price."