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The Skanner News
Published: 27 March 2014

2014 Dempsey Lecture Featuring writer and director Annie Leonard
April 17, 7:30 p.m.
Hudson Hall, Rogers Music Center, Willamette University
Free admission 

SALEM, Ore. — Annie Leonard will never forget the field trip she took to a landfill while she was an undergraduate at Columbia University — the vast landscape of waste, as far as the eye could see, set her off on a journey to discover how a society could be so unsustainable, and why more people don’t understand the depth of the problem.

The eventual result of her journey was a 20-minute online movie, “The Story of Stuff,” that has been viewed more than 40 million times since its 2007 release and spawned a community and movement of environmental change-makers.

Leonard will shed light on America’s consumption craze and obsession with “stuff” as she delivers the 2014 Dempsey Lecture on April 17 at Willamette University.

A former Greenpeace activist, Leonard has two decades of experience investigating where our stuff comes from and where it goes when we toss it. She traveled to more than 40 countries to poke into factories and trash dumps before creating “The Story of Stuff.”

Her simple, fact-filled film — illustrated by creative, sometimes humorous cartoons — attempts to connect the dots between all the stuff in our lives and the environmental, economic and social issues we face.

“The movie takes a systemic view of all these problems,” Leonard says. “There are so many people working on individual pieces. The more we can recognize that our goals are intertwined, the better off we’ll be. I want people to think about big, bold changes and not just little, incremental tweaks.”

Leonard promises her lecture will not be “whiny and wonky” — her goal is to have fun while teaching about issues and solutions.

“A lot of environmentalists tend to be about gloom and doom, and that leaves the audience members scared and depressed,” she says. “I’d rather we feel empowered and excited to be engaged. I’ll talk about solutions and how we can get involved, and I’ll use accessible vocabulary so that everybody in the audience becomes better-equipped to have conversations about these issues.”

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