Mary Horner


Do accusations of hypocrisy fired at actors with high-carbon lifestyles carry any weight? 

Everyone’s heard of Extinction Rebellion (XR). I bet most of you have seen one of their protests. But how far do their supporters really understand the core message that XR is promoting?

Celebrities from all over the world, and a variety of disciplines, are using their platform as a way to highlight the climate crisis the earth is entering into. But regardless of how many followers they have, are any of them willing to give up their designer clothes and luxury apartments for a low-carbon footprint and a greener lifestyle?

Over 100 celebrities signed an open letter last week that stated ‘Like you – and everyone else – we are stuck in this fossil- fuel economy’. Although I respect the fact they admit to leading high-carbon lifestyles, I can only read this letter as a way to negate responsibility for their earth-damaging ways of life. I agree that we all contribute to carbon emissions, but it’s clear that the celebrity lifestyle runs at a much faster pace than that of the average person. 

It’s so easy to say things, like the celebrities calling themselves hypocrites. So far, they haven’t shown any significant change to their daily life.  For instance, Elton John insisted that Prince Harry and Meghan’s trip to his villa in Nice kept in line with Harry’s environmental policy. This comes after John contributed the same amount of money that the royal’s flight cost, as a way to make it carbon neutral. However, this isn’t changing anyone’s lifestyle. Celebrities can make as many flights as they want carbon neutral, but it won’t immediately remove the C02 that they used. Granted, being carbon-neutral is a step towards being environmentally friendly. 

I can’t help but use an analogy to explain why this isn’t as helpful as it may appear to be. Imagine you buy a tub of ice cream, to last you the whole week, but you have a stressful day at university and suddenly you find your spoon knocking on the bottom of the carton. Sure, you can buy yourself some more ice cream, even make it last for the rest of the week. But you can’t take back the fact that you made a conscious decision to eat all the ice cream, even though you knew the consequences of doing so. If we imagine the ice cream to be the plane, and eating being going on holiday, it’s easier to see how huge the decisions made by those who take private jets. Their decisions are active, and one that they chose to accept. Just because you make things carbon-neutral, it doesn’t mean that you’re saving the earth. It takes between 20 and 200 years for CO2 emissions to dissolve into the ocean (which is where just over 70% of our carbon dioxide goes), and with the number of CO2 parts (per million) rising by 12 million in just one year, celebrities being carbon-neutral simply just isn’t enough! Carbon-neutral methods take significantly longer to remove the carbon dioxide from the air than it would do to have never emitted it in the first place. The measures that are needed to eliminate excessive emissions are extremely expensive, and at present are not developed enough to safely remove carbon dioxide without damaging the natural resources that help to do so. 

We’re running out of time. The amount of CO2 produced by UK citizens has been consistently rising, at an estimated rate of 2 parts per million a year. To the actorvists: you’ve accepted the title of hypocrites. It’s now time for you to put your money where your mouth is.

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