Mmmm… Complex… Issues

Why not use cartoons instead of charts and graphs to make your point? Use whatever you want.

Annie Leonard used to spout jargon. She reveled in the sort of geek-speak that glazes your eyeballs.

Externalized costs, paradigm shifts, the precautionary principle, extended producer responsibility.

That was before she discovered cartoons.

Today the 45-year-old Berkeley activist is America’s pitchperson for a new style of environmental message. Out with boring PowerPoints and turgid reports; in with witty videos that explain complex issues in digestible terms.

M’kay. All good. Instead of being a boring old scold… entertain and scintillate with the latest and the gravest.

In the past 2 1/2 years, more than 12 million people worldwide have viewed Leonard’s animated Web video, “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute expose of humanity’s wasteful ways. It has been translated into more than 15 languages and has spawned a book of the same name, published on recycled paper with soy ink.

Leonard recently launched “The Story of Bottled Water,” a video about how clever marketing turned a freely available commodity — tap water — into a source of profit and pollution, and “The Story of Cap and Trade,” her take on how carbon trading undermines efforts to curb global warming.

“The Story of Cosmetics,” about toxicity in personal care products, will go live July 21. Coming this fall: “The Story of Electronics,” on planned obsolescence and pollutants in computers and cellphones.

Uh huh. I see. Taking the backdoor route to Old Scoldsville, eh? Nice one. But I have a feeling these stories themselves won’t be nearly as insightful about waste nor cause as many people to pause and think about their own consumption as will the many ham-fisted attempts to paint her as a marxist or a communist by well-meaning libertarian ignorati. Talk about enlightening.