The inconvenient truth about celebrity eco-activism

Environmental campaigning has changed beyond recognition since the advent of the online world. Never has it been easier or cheaper to knock up a website, start a campaign or create an online environmental community. Slowly but surely, policy-makers have taken note.

And now Hollywood and its celebrity A-list are jumping on the bandwagon. In the wake of the success of Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth, the latest addition to the world of celebrity eco-activism is the Leonardo DiCaprio (narrated, produced and written) docu-film, the 11th Hour. The film features interviews with Mikhail Gorbachev, Stephen Hawking, former CIA chief James Woolsey and other scientists and experts on the environment.

As we’ve seen with Al Gore’s effort, these films are much more than just idle entertainment; they are a means for celebrities to crank up the pressure on the political elite to act against climate change, especially in the US.

Hollywood is alas not the ideal bed fellow of the environmental movement. Al Gore has faced numerous accusations of not practicing what he preaches (last autumn’s USA today editorial was particularly scathing of Gore). Apparently, he can charge six figure fees for speaking appearances and asks for a private jet to bring him to and from a conference. Not surprising therefore that a friend of mine asked me the other day if I’d already seen Al Gore’s “Inconceivable Girth”.

Naturally, A-list Hollywood actors can’t be absolved from such accusations. But Leo’s response to all this criticism is perhaps a fair one, namely that the message is more important than the messenger. “Attacks on Al Gore are misdirected” he said at a recent Cannes press conference.

Separately, in the run-up to 11th Hour’s release in the US on 17th August, DiCaprio (and studio Warner Bros) is doing his utmost to use the online world to drum up support and spread awareness of the film and indeed climate change. Check the video currently on Leonardo DiCaprio’s extremely eco Myspace page.


The film’s website has a wealth of interactive elements: The Planet Green Game allows surfers to wonder through the virtual town of Evergreen, looking for ways to reduce CO2 emissions (although clearly this has been borrowed off Starbucks), whilst others might want to join the 11th Hour action community.

One can also “pledge online” to watch the 11th Hour once it is released and spread the word to your friends – an environmental goal that Warner Bros were doubtless more than pleased to endorse.

Finally, some eco-celebrity did you knows:

  1. Vegan yoga enthusiast Woody Harrelson has requested that only all-natural makeup products be used during the shooting of this new 2007 film, “Battle in Seattle.”
  2. Alanis Morissette has invested in solar panels to heat her pool and owns a hybrid car (now that’s ironic)
  3. The soon to return Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford, is vice chair of the Board of Conservation International (CI), on which he has served for more than ten years (conservation of biblical artefacts excluded)
  4. California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger has had his two Hummers adjusted to run on hydrogen and biofuel.
  5. Robert Redford is on the board of the Natural Resources Defense Council and has worked to advocate for environmental issues with both politicians and the public.


Environmental Documentaries: The Power of the Documentary
March 20, 2009 | 8:41 PM

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