Celeb Eco Hypocrites
Image: Office of the Governor General / Wikimedia Commons

Why celebrity eco-hypocrites are doing more harm than good

Full confession – I never used to buy into global warning and the need for environmental protection. There were numerous reasons, but the major one is that I never saw an eco-activist who wasn’t a hypocrite. If you undermine your argument, why should I buy it? And now, as climate discussion becomes increasingly important, it’s still the same issue – we need more than ever to do something about the environment, but the actions of celebrity eco-hypocrites is still proving off-putting to the wider public.

There are far too many climate hypocrites to list, but here are a few recent examples. In April, Emma Thompson flew in from America to attend the Extinction Rebellion protests that shut down London, despite the group insisting that flights only be used for emergencies. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have come under fire for promoting green politics and deciding to limit the number of children they have, only to take numerous private flights. Former Vice-President Al Gore, star of An Inconvenient Truth, racks up an electric bill 20 times the national US average. Leonardo DiCaprio, one of Hollywood’s biggest proponents of climate change, continues to use a mega yacht and private planes.

If you undermine your argument, why should I buy it?

There’s a general sense of moral superiority among these people that means they don’t see harm in their own actions. In July, celebrities and the mega-rich gathered in Sicily for a Google event. Each year has a different theme, and this year’s was the impact of global warming. Still, that didn’t prevent roughly 300 people taking 114 private flights and mega yachts to the resort, nor Google transferring them privately in luxury vehicles and helicopters. It’s a huge piece of irony that a climate change summit was so hugely polluting.

Even our new climate queen Greta Thunberg got in on the hypocrisy. Thunberg announced that she would attend a UN climate summit by taking a carbon-neutral yacht across the Atlantic. The yacht was her vehicle of choice because of the carbon emissions caused by planes – Thunberg has been encouraging people to fly less to save the environment. But here’s the issue – as the crew leave and people come to pick up the boat (both via air), the voyage will end up generating more emissions than a simple flight would have done anyway. The gesture is nice, but Thunberg’s choice hurts the environment more.

When we see stories such as these, your response can only be disbelief – sure, they claim that climate change is a major issue that’ll affect our future, but they aren’t quite concerned enough to curb their own lifestyles. To trot out an old cliché, they talk the talk (boy, do they talk), but they refuse to walk the walk. Often, they trot out a line about carbon off-setting – or, to put it another way, we’re wealthy so we can do what we like. It’s unrealistic to essentially create two classes of global citizens – the celebrities and rich, lecturing from their ivory towers as they do nothing, and ordinary people, being condemned for every car journey and bit of cardboard they accidentally bin rather than recycle.

Nobody likes being lectured by a hypocrite, and it’s the Earth that’s losing out in the process

Celebrity eco-activism really undermines the cause, and that’s a truly harmful consequence. It’s hard to take those dire warnings seriously when they’re immediately undercut by the actions of the speaker. Some would say that it’s the symbols that are important – if Emma Thompson’s message is heard, it’s worth it in the long run. But, as we’re constantly told in the climate debate, actions are what matter, and words are meaningless if we see that even the speaker doesn’t appear to believe them.

Climate change is a huge issue and everyone ought to take steps to fight it. This is a global problem which requires global solutions, but that’s not going to happen if the wealthiest use their voices to antagonise, provoking scepticism and annoyance at the cause. Nobody likes being lectured by a hypocrite, and it’s the Earth that’s losing out in the process.


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