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October17, 2014.

TheGlobal Conversation

Accordingto Wrights Mills in the article, ‘Sociological Imagination,’private troubles refer to those issues that originate fromindividuals’ character and those around. In broader sense, privatetroubles are caused by individuals or those around them individuals’biological entity and the social setting (Mills,1959). As such, private troubles are those issues that threaten personalvalues. Public issues, on the other hand, refer to those matters thatare beyond individual environment and their inner life. As such,issues become public as they are influenced by the organizationstructure of the society. In this way, the issue becomes a publicissue when it threatens public cherished values. Threats to publicvalues cannot be defined adequately but infer to those matters thathave the effects of widespread trouble in the everyday and immediateenvironment of man. For instance, if all the residents in the cityare employed an only two are not, unemployment can be consideredpersonal troubles to the two residents.

Structuralissues that transcend individual capacities such as economy slumps,war, political and other issues that affect society milieu areconsidered public(Mills, 1959).However, most of the individual troubles are caused by structuralchanges that happen in the social setting. These structural changesaffect individual milieu. For instance, the economic slump means thatindividuals become unemployed, marriages turn men into solebreadwinners, and sometimes women are turned into domestic slaves.Private problems results when personal values are threatened bystructural changes in the public arena (Mills,1959).Individuals’ troubles are thus seen as resulting from changes thatoccur in social institutions. This distinction between privatetrouble and public issues is essential in the understanding of issuesraised in Global conversation. Global conversation focuses on activeparticipation in shaping the world through sustainable developmentactivities that do not degrade the environment. In this case, theunderstanding of private troubles as well as the public issues isessential.

Issuesthat occur at global levels such as the economic slump, climatechange, war or change in political institutions affects individualsin the general public. For instance, increased environmentalpollution has accelerated global warming and subsequent climatechange. Catastrophic Typhoons, tsunami and hurricanes are some of theeffects of climate change that directly or indirectly influenceprivate troubles. Far from this, global conversation entailsconsultations on how challenges affected the public and privateindividuals could be addressed. In this way, private troubles, aswell as the public issues, are intertwined issues arising from theexternal environment significantly affect individual lives andsolutions to such issues means solutions to private issues. Forinstance, economic depression is commonly influenced by globalfactors that are beyond individuals but have a great impact onpeople’s lives through such aspects as job losses, high inflationand poor performance in enterprises.

Inthe ‘Story of stuff’ by Annie Leonard, expounds on the effects ofincreased consumerism in the world. In the film, Annie presents acritical vision of a consumerist society and attempts to drawconnection between environmental degradation and social issues.Leonard criticizes increased global consumerism and elucidates onwhat need to be done to curtail further environmental degradation byencouraging all to participate in creating a sustainable world(Leonard, 2007).The story by of stuff is important in expounding the distinctionbetween private and public issues. According to Annie, the problem ofglobal pollution is both an individual and collective concern. Forinstance, she criticizes individual consumerism, irresponsibleresource use and waste disposal. She says ‘Eachof us in the United States makes 412pounds (2.04 kg)of garbage a day&quot(Leonard, 2007).

Inaddition, Leonardcriticizes individuals for been influenced by corporateadvertisements that are the root of a consumerist society. In allthis instances, Leonard postulates the salient role and effectscreated by individuals and as a society. The assertion that, eachperson contributes to environmental degradation narrows down to thedistinction between private troubles and public issues. Irresponsibleconsumerism and waste disposal is both a private trouble and a publicissue. In particular, Annie is worried that increased consumerismwill outdo the available resources and that this has created harmfulgarbage that is destroying the environment.

Leonardasserts that, the environmental degradation witnessed throughout theworld is purely manmade and can only be solved through reducedproduction and consumption (Leonard,2007).Furthermore, she is critical of developed nations that produce andconsume with little effort in enhancing resource sustainability. Forinstance, she says that the united States comprise of only 5% globalpopulation yet the country consume 30% of world resources(Leornard, 2009). Annie Leonard argument is that lack of perpetual economic growth islargely due to rampant consumerism culture in the global community.

Increasedconsumerism is an individual issue that leads to public concerns dueto threats of diminishing resources. In addition, the effects ofincreased consumerism make it hard for perpetual economic growthrealization and this in turn affects individuals and the society ingeneral. According to Annie, ‘story of stuff’ the world system isailing, and more resources are wasted with no sustainability,equitableness in use and sustainability. The overall concept is aboutresources conservation and extends condemnation to corporate firmsfor their barrage of advertisement that encourage increasedconsumerism thereby resulting in more toxic wastes accumulation(Leornard,2009).

Leonardelucidates on the concept of externalizing costs as a measure ofchecking environmental degradation. In the externalization of costconcept, companies should be forced to pay full costs of productionas a motivator to influence company’s engage in safer, cleaner andless polluting production while checking on overconsumption. Leonardargues that, including all production costs in all products wouldraise the products price tag thereby discouraging consumers fromconstant buying (Leonard,2010).The underlying perspective on the notion of externalized cost is thatdespite the haste in take-make-waste system that is responsible forour environmental degradation, no one pays for it(Leornard, 2010).As part of elucidating this claim, Annie gives an anecdote of herbuying a chip radio at only $ 4.99, this triggered her analysis onthe various production costs the radio cost before reaching theshelves.

Inshort, according to Leonard,increased production of cheap products is largely to blame forincreased environmental problems. The notion of externalized costs isvested on the claim that, during production, the full cost ofproduction, extraction, distribution and disposal is not paid bymanufacturing firms leading to pollution (Leonard,2010).For instance, Annie observes that the radio she bought at $ 4.99 wascheap, and if broken, she could easily get another one. However, sheasserts that the full costs of producing another radio are high dueto environmental degradation done through mining, air pollution andirresponsible disposal of the electronic wastes. As such, Annieadvocates that companies should be forced to pay the full cost ofproduction that covers environmental pollution costs (Leonard,2010).In this way, the costs of finished products would be highdiscouraging overconsumption, waste and high production. In thiscontext, the measures adopted to address environment problems areinsufficient.

Accordingto Etzioni, economic problem experienced globally cannot be rectifiedthrough regulation but individual behavior modification. Etizioniobserves that, individuals should act in a responsible manneraccording to normative values(Etzion, 2009).In his argument on how consumerism culture would be managed, Etiziondraws the debate of private issues and public issues. For instance,he argues that increased consumerism is as a result of human greed tosatisfy higher needs and this increased consumerism later becomes asocial problem (Leornard,2010).In his claims, Etizioni observes that, people live in a culturedominated by psychology of consumerism where individuals use allmeans to acquire more leading to an economic mess(Etzioni, 2009).

Consumerismis an individual obsession that does not lead to satisfaction, andmost people feel unsatisfied regardless of the wealth amountaccumulated. Diamond posits the argument that it is thecharacteristics in the environment that influence the social,cultural conditions in individuals’ environment, as well as theworld system societies (Elwell,2013).In his argument, Diamond stresses that it is the presence of‘proximate causes’ or the ‘ultimate factors’ that increaseinequalities among different societies. For instance, he asserts thatsocial, cultural development is influenced by biological, physicaland social environment. In this case, Diamond arguments appear topostulates that social problems, as well as individual troubles, arecaused by individuals as well as factors outside individuals’control. For instance, he attributes the piecemeal transition in theagrarian revolution to small efforts taken by individuals in variouscountries.

However,Diamond maintains that, environmental factors such as climate change,declining food sources and changes in food production technologiesled to the development of agrarian from the hunting and gatheringpractices (Elwell,2013).In his argument, Diamond asserts that it is individuals and theenvironment factors that influenced the growth of agriculture. Theoverall argument is that individuals and as well as social factorsare to blame for the environmental problems experienced in the worldtoday. Diamond supports this claim by his assertion that, as agrariandevelopment progressed the need to produce surplus food lead tocapitalism economy, conflicts, emergence of diseases and otherenvironmental issues (Elwell,2013).In the same way, Etizion assesses that it is individual’s characterthat is to blame for environmental changes Diamond also narrows tothe role of individuals in influencing environmental changes.

Environmentalproblems encountered in the world today could only be solved throughindividual efforts, rather than looking at the society as responsiblefor environmental degradation, focus should be aimed at individuals’aspects that influence environmental degradation. For instance,increased consumerism by individuals is largely to blame forenvironmental problems experienced today. In the same note,environmental problems cannot be effective without individualefforts individuals need to take environmental problems as privateand not as a collective problem(Holden, 2010).Consumerism is linked to unregulated burgeoning economic materialismand destroys individuality and the society in general (Etzioni,2009).This unregulated consumption of economic materials has made it hardto achieve environmental changes.

Increasedconsumerism is the force behind climate change, high toxicologicalsubstances and other population health problems. The need for morematerial things has led to increased production cycle that isresponsible for environmental degradation. More resources areextracted from the environment to satisfy the growing need ofconsumer products (Etzioni,2009).The effects are that this increased consumerism and productioneventually leads to high wastes disposal. This production cycle inturns leads to more harmful environmental effects(Edwards &amp Clark, 2001).As such, approaches used in addressing environmental problem need tofocus on this production cycle. In particular, production companiesshould be forced to pay the full costs of production as espoused inthe ‘externalization of costs’ perspective (Leornard,2010).High production costs would then lower the rate of production,extraction, unnecessary disposal and eventually lower consumption. Inthese ways, environmental problems would be effectively addressed atindividual and social level.


Edwards,Paul Geoffrey Miller, Clark A. (2001). Changingthe atmosphere: expert knowledge and environmental governance.Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Elwell,Frank W. 2013. &quotThe Implicit Ecological-Evolutionary Theory ofJared Diamond,” Retrieved October 18, 2014, fromhttp://www.faculty.rsu.edu/~felwell/Theorists/Essays/Elias1.htm

EtzioniAmitai (2009). America after consumerism. Retrieved October 18, 2014,fromhttp://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/etzioni/documents/B508%20Spent,%20America%20after%20consumerism.pdf

HoldenJohn P. (2010). Global Climate Disruption-What do we know, whatshould we do? Retrieved October 18, 2014, fromhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WTQTL9lqDY

LeornardAnnie. (2009). TheCritique of Story of Stuff Part 1. Retrieved October 18, 2014,from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5uJgG05xUY

LeornardAnnie. (2007). The story of stuff movie.Retrieved October 18, 2014, fromhttp://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-stuff/

LeornardAnnie. (2010). The story of stuff: Externalized costs and the $4.99radio. Retrieved fromhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/annie-leonard/the-story-of-stuff-extern_b_490351.html

MillsWright C. (1959). Sociological imagination: Private troubles andpublic issues. Oxford University Press.