Hollywood lends star power to climate crusade

2015-11-18 15:52
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tinseltown's unofficial chief ambassador on climate. (Rich Fury, AP)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Tinseltown's unofficial chief ambassador on climate. (Rich Fury, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Los Angeles – Climate change may be the challenge of our time, but when it comes to rallying the global public to the cause, a Hollywood star will always trump a treaty or summit.

Environmental threats loom large in many an American blockbuster, as in this year's "Mad Max" about the fight for access to water, or "Interstellar," featuring a group of astronauts who leave an Earth made uninhabitable by plagues and sandstorms to seek a new planet.

A star-studded documentary series called "Years of Living Dangerously," co-produced by James Cameron, tackles climate change and the melting of the polar ice caps head-on, with a second season slated for next year.

But for much of the glitterati, the battle is fought off screen, calling for action on social media, demonstrating in the street or lending their faces to ad campaigns.

Tinseltown's unofficial chief ambassador on climate is Leonardo DiCaprio, who in 2014 was named a UN messenger of peace.

Last year he opened a summit on climate change at the United Nations with a stark warning: "None of it is hysteria. It is a fact."

"This is not a partisan debate. It is a human one. It is our moral obligation – if, admittedly, a daunting one," added the star of "Titanic" and "The Wolf of Wall Street."

DiCaprio, who will attend the COP21 climate change talks in Paris next month, has been crusading on global warming since 1998, when he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is involved in 78 projects and raised $40m at its last event.

His 2007 documentary "The 11th Hour" blares his message loud and clear: deforestation and pollution are destroying the ecosystems that guarantee the survival of species.

DiCaprio is far from alone in the fight.

Matt Damon has led a high-profile campaign against deforestation and water pollution, while Robert Redford has lobbied against coal power and Harrison Ford has become a champion for biodiversity.

"Terminator" star Arnold Schwarzenegger took pioneering action in favour of the environment as governor of California, including pushing for less-polluting cars.

And Morgan Freeman, Susan Sarandon, Alec Baldwin and Mark Ruffalo wrote directly to President Barack Obama, asking him to lead a green energy revolution.

More stars, fewer suits

Star power has undeniably raised the profile of the campaign to save the planet, but how much impact does it really have on public attitudes?

The answer is quite a lot, according to Jon Christensen, a senior fellow at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

Poor communication is one of the main problems when it comes to raising awareness of global warming, he said.

"The most effective messages about climate change are stories that people can relate to their own lives and show people that there are positive ways that they can take action," he said.

One good example was when Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart and Cameron Diaz made environmentally friendly cars popular a decade ago by showing up at the Oscars in a Toyota hybrid car.

"That's a step in the right direction," added Christensen.

Brad Pitt has also tried to set an example by using environmentally sustainable materials to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

"You can look at it as discouraging" that organisations rely on famous people, said Maher Nasser, director of the Outreach Division, Department of Public Information of the UN.

"But it's reinforcing. It's reaching new audiences that hopefully become more engaged."

From script to reality?

Movies and television, in depicting worst-case environmental scenarios, also play a role in shaping public consciousness of the issues at stake.

"You can actually put the environment into so many types of stories," said the actress and producer Kristin Davis, of "Sex and the City" fame.

"The Day After Tomorrow" (2004) shows the world entering a new ice age because of global warming; in "Waterworld" (1995) polar ice caps melt, provoking a maritime crisis.

And Cameron's 2009 animation blockbuster "Avatar" – whose plot dwells on energy problems on Earth in the year 2154 – was a milestone in that respect.

Besides winning three Oscars, it became the biggest box office hit in history, with $2.8bn in revenue.

Its director is also waging a personal – and well-publicised – campaign to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by removing meat and dairy products from his diet.

Can Hollywood do more? Yes, always, said the actress Andie MacDowell.

"Actors and celebrities have to take the opportunity to use the media to spread green ideas. It's a great way to teach people and encourage people," she said.

Read more on:    us  |  climate change

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.