• 11.04.11

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.”

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.