The rich and famous have been flocking to the most gorgeous parts of the world to party for decades. These days however, having disembarked from their gas-guzzling super-yachts or private jets, they’re also lecturing the rest of us on climate change
These are the ‘wokerati’, the super-wealthy whose new favourite hobby is proclaiming doom for the planet, an exercise in virtue signalling which is sadly not matched by their own actions.
Their latest shindig was organised by the billionaire founders of Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, at the sumptuous Verdura Resort in Sicily. It’s known as ‘Google Camp’, a name chosen no doubt to suggest back-to-nature, eco-friendly activities, where in reality it’s a lavish $20 million bash where celebs arrived on some 114 private jet and a fleet of mega-yachts, and drove around the island in gas-guzzling SUVs before discussing what the plebs need to do about the climate emergency.
It’s a case, as more than one person observed on social media, of the rich telling the rest of us not to live like the rich – because if we did follow the example of the selfish and spoiled we probably would destroy the planet.
Of course, every sensible person knows not to take any notice of movie stars, moguls and other celebs. Many of them are fabulously wealthy because the world seems to value reality stars above cancer researchers, say, or cutting edge scientists.
But wealth often seems to induce a kind of shameless hypocrisy, so we have annoying film stars like Leonardo di Caprio telling us the planet is doomed unless we all go back to living in huts. How completely lacking in self-awareness can you be when, as a member of an exclusive club of the hyper-consuming super-wealthy, you’re telling everyone to mind their carbon footprint even as your own lavish lifestyle is busy pumping greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
In his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech, Di Caprio said that climate change was “the most urgent threat facing our entire species” and that “we need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters”. Fine words, except for that Di Caprio, like so many of his fellow celebrity virtue signallers, is a big polluter. Travelling on a private jet, for example, rack up an estimated 37 times the personal carbon emissions of a commercial flight. And why does anyone, especially a self-proclaimed eco-warrior, need four homes?
Celebs like Di Caprio argue that they try to offset their massive carbon footprint by planting trees and other initiatives but these guilt-assuaging creativities are often used to justify more flights, bringing about a net increase in travel and the kind of pollution they say we must avoid.
This blatant hypocrisy is, of course, the main reason why no-one takes celebrities seriously when they blather on about ‘climate emergency’. We recognise that they don’t take it seriously themselves, and that buying the top-of-the-range Prius to line up in the garage of one of your many mansions alongside your whole range of sports cars is just another exercise in virtue signalling because being climate aware is painfully on-trend.
The most on-trend statement of all these days is to say you won’t be having children, or even to dictate how many children people should have.
In what was seen partly as a swipe at his brother William, Britain’s Prince Harry was at pains to tell the world via Vogue magazine that he and his wife Meghan will only have two children because of population concerns. In response to a warning from primatologist Jane Goodall not to have “too many” children, Harry was quick to assure that it would be “two, maximum”.
There’s more than a smack of absolutism in the exchange, as there has been in the policies of zero-population growth advocates for decades. Those doom-mongers who’ve been saying that too many humans were the cause of all ills got it hopelessly wrong of course, since the big challenge now facing the world is the prospect of a shrinking and ageing population and the decline in growth and wellbeing that will bring.
I’d wager, however, that most people take the Harry’s protestations about climate change with a fairly large pinch of salt. During a recent speech, for example, he scolded that “we’ve been far too slow waking up to the issues and acting on the damaging impact our ways of living are having on the world.”
Yes, you have Harry, you’ve been far too slow.
The luxury home you share with Meghan cost the British taxpayer an eye-watering £2.4 million of conspicuous consumption to renovate. You use a helicopter to get from London to Birmingham, while Meghan took a private jet to New York for a baby shower costing a staggering $430,000. She also spent an eye-watering £500,000 pounds on clothes in 2018. (Seriously? Were those dresses made of solid gold?) Harry made his Google camp speech in his bare feet though, which might have saved a few bob and a carbon gram or two on footwear production, though he splashed out on a luxury pedicure before the big reveal.
Then, last weekend, Harry and Meghan came in for further criticism when, after scolding the rest of us about our ‘damaging impact’ on the environment, they flew by private jet three times in three weeks, racking up almost the entire average annual carbon footprint for the ordinary British person for their trips.
Clearly, in common with most eco-warrior celebs, for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex it’s a case of ‘do what I say, not what I do’. That famously doesn’t work as a parenting technique, and it doesn’t work as an eco-warrior campaign strategy either.
Maybe there’s an element of this hypocrisy in all of us, or at least in the large numbers of people who agree we must do something about the climate crisis, while driving land rovers, taking two foreign holidays a year, upping their spending to keep up with the neighbours, and being completely unable to live without every smart phone, tablet and every other screen known to man.
Either way, I think we all preferred celebrities when they just stuck to flaunting their wealth and sailing to Cannes on their lavish yachts without also constantly lecturing the rest of us. When I see Meghan and Harry queuing for a Ryanair flight, or better still, taking a cycling holiday in Blackpool, I’ll take them seriously on climate change. In the meantime, neither they nor the rest of the elites are actually fooling anyone.