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Celebrities admit they’re climate hypocrites. Say they’ll keep being climate hypocrites

Have you had enough of celebrities telling you how to live your life? Well, just in case the answer is no, more than 100 celebrity supporters of Extinction Rebellion have signed a letter to the media explaining their support.

The BBC reports

Celebrity Extinction Rebellion supporters have admitted in an open letter being “hypocrites” over their high-carbon lifestyles.

But stars including Benedict Cumberbatch, who last week joined London protests, called for “systemic change” to the “fossil-fuel economy”.

More than 100 celebrity supporters of Extinction Rebellion signed the letter to the media, which urges the media to focus on “the real story” of the climate and ecological emergency.

Spice Girl Mel B, comedian Steve Coogan, musician Bob Geldof, actor Sir Mark Rylance, model Lily Cole and Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis, among others, all confessed their culpability in the climate crisis.

The letter says: “Dear journalists who have called us hypocrites. You’re right.

“We live high carbon lives and the industries that we are part of have huge carbon footprints.

“Like you, and everyone else, we are stuck in this fossil-fuel economy and without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm.”

This letter is one of the more obvious examples of empty, sanctimonious virtue signalling I can remember.

Hypocritical celebrities

If these celebrities want to reduce their carbon footprint they can do so immediately. They can stop flying, as they want the rest of us to. They can take jobs they can walk to, ride a horse to, get public transport to. Don’t jet across the planet to the Oscars or Cannes. If they truly feel that they are battling an existential threat to humanity, giving up air travel is a small price to pay.

One of the more glaring hypocrites is British actress Dame Emma Thompson. In April, she flew 5,400 miles to take part in an Extinction Rebellion protest. A flight from Los Angeles International Airport to London Heathrow is estimated to generate around 1.67 tonnes of CO2 – roughly the amount a typical car will emit in four months. Do as I say, not as I do.

Dame Thompson defended her vast carbon footprint, saying “It’s very difficult to do my job without occasionally flying”. OK, get another job. I’m serious. She claims we are talking about extinction. She claims we need to make drastic changes to the way we live our lives to prevent it. So, be the change you seek. Subject yourself to the demands you would place on others. If the rest of us are supposed to give up something as basic as gas – which most people in the United Kingdom use to heat their homes and cook their food – it shouldn’t be asking too much for Dame Emma to give up the movie star life style.

When Nathan Hale, a spy for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, was captured by the British, he famously said “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” These celebrities won’t even lose their air travel.

Irresponsible celebrities

The celebrities say that “without systemic change, our lifestyles will keep on causing climate and ecological harm”. As we’ve seen, they could dramatically lessen their climate and ecological harm tomorrow by practicing what they preach.

But, apparently, it isn’t up to them to change, it is up to the ‘system’ to change. Except that ‘systems’ are just aggregates. They have no motive power of their own. If we want ‘systems’ to change we need to change the component parts of that system. And, in this case, that is us. And these celebrities aren’t willing to make that change. They hide by palming off responsibility to something called a ‘system’.

When Branch Rickey wanted to break the racist color bar in baseball and unleash Jackie Robinson’s awesome talents on the Major Leagues, he didn’t sit about waiting for ‘systemic change’. He just went and picked him.

What do regular people think?

The celebrities say they cannot ignore the call of young people such as Greta Thunberg to “fight for their already devastated future”, even if it means putting themselves “in your firing line”. But it isn’t these celebrities who are in the firing line, it is the rest of us. How do we feel about that?

An indication came from my hometown, London, this week. Despite telling us we need to use public transport more, Extinction Rebellion targeted London’s underground. Suffice it to say, London’s commuters were not impressed.

If celebrities want to flaunt their virtue, great. But they have no right to expect the rest of us to suffer for it.

John Phelan is an economist at the Center of the American Experiment. 

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