Over the last few years with the dawn of the social media age, the number of ‘celebrities’ we know of has drastically increased. ‘Celebrity’ no longer only defines movie stars and famous athletes but YouTubers and social media influencers as well. Whether we want to admit it or not, celebrities tend to have a great impact on us. In fact, a celebrity endorsement can translate to a 4% increase in sales within a short period of time according to Marketwatch, as cited by Forbes.
It is almost impossible to escape influencer culture whether you love them or hate them they impact our lives with their endorsements. “Because we look up to celebrities as our role models. They have a very powerful influence on our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviour. How much of an impact they have on us depends on their social media standings and media coverage,” said Shanti Dsouza, a psychology teacher.
In a poll on whether it is a celebrity’s duty to use their platform to speak up about environmental issues, especially climate change, 68% said that it is their duty, while 32% said it isn’t. Most of those who stated no said it was because they did not believe anyone should be forced to advocate for something.
Since the mid-2000s, the role of celebrities in the climate change movement has grown in importance with speeches at UN conferences on climate change to production and appearances in films about the climate crisis. The importance given to celebrities to drive this movement and to reach a wider audience is paramount due to the current political environment in which media coverage and public relations play a huge role.
There are however some concerns when it comes to celebrity advocacy. They often embody more of an emotional response to the climate crisis rather than providing facts and solutions. They tell people how to feel about the movement rather than what to do, while also providing a simple narrative to get people involved and often do not go into details about the socio-economic or political problems associated with the issue. Hence the person’s understanding or knowledge of the crisis is in no way increased.
They can also unintentionally drown out the voices of scientists and environmentalists who have more knowledge on the issue. Academic Darrel West suggested that the fascination for celebrities raises the risk that “there will be more superficiality and less substance in our political progress,” as was cited in The Guardian.
Despite this, the work that some celebrities have done to battle the climate crisis is commendable and proves that celebrity advocacy, if done right, can have a major impact. Some international celebrities making waves in the fight to battle climate change are:
His name has become synonymous with the climate change movement and has been advocating for environmental reforms for over the last 20 years. He founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 with the mission to protect the earth’s wild places and saving vulnerable wildlife from extinction. It has funded more than 200 projects and has awarded a whopping $100 million in grants in over 50 countries to 132 organisations for solutions to the climate crisis. Some of the biggest achievements of the foundation are:
He is an actor and environmental activist who founded Water Defense in 2011 dedicated to banning hydraulic fracking which contributes to global warming as well, as The Solutions Project to work towards 100% renewable energy. He also is a major financial supporter of Frack-Free Colorado, a frack-free coalition. In 2015, he received an environmental award from Dickinson college.
“In a recent movie, I play a guy who gets pretty formidable when he gets angry. In real life, I get angry, too. I’m angry that we are still debating climate change, and that despite the reams of science-based evidence for it, there are still those who ignore the facts. I’m angry that we’re heavily investing in fossil fuels to power our nation when greater investment in renewable energy represents jobs, energy stability — and the sustainability of life as we know it,” said Mark Ruffalo as cited in Grist.
She founded the Honest Company to prove the significance that businesses play in the climate movement. She strongly advocates for eco-friendly products and sustainability.
He founded the Ian Somerhalder Foundation to combat the climate crisis as well as to deal with animal rights, and poaching. He was involved in the cleanup after the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster in April of 2010
His most recent project was a showtime documentary series produced by James Cameron on climate change called ‘Years of Living Dangerously’.
Jimmy Donaldson, more commonly known by his YouTube channel name MrBeast, in partnership with Arbour Day Foundation pledged to plant one tree for every dollar donated and planned to plant 20 million trees across the globe by 2022. Famous billionaire Elon Musk notably donated $1 million to this cause.
India too has its fair share of Bollywood actors who are going out of their way to advocate for a greener future:
He founded Groups Of Groups, a parent organisation consisting of over 50 NGOs and trusts, as well as Rahul Bose Foundation which works towards dealing with the climate crisis. In 2009 he became a brand ambassador or ‘Alert Ambassador’ for planet alert, a campaign for a greener India.
She is a UN Environment Goodwill Ambassador and an environmentalist. Her repertoire of work for the environmental cause is long:
In 2012, he won the Green Globe Award for his efforts in fighting the climate crisis and has expressed his desire to see more films on climate change as well as act in such films.
To bring to light India’s vulnerability to climate change, he founded a partnership between the International Indian Film Academy and Global Cool. He also donated ₹ 1.1 million to clear the debt of farmers in Andhra Pradesh.
He was the face of the ’Save Our Tigers’ campaign that spread awareness on the importance of tiger conservation in India as well as supported PETA campaigns against an elephant that was being chained and tortured in a temple in Kolhapur.
She has actively been working in the field of renewable energy, especially solar power and rainwater harvesting.
She has been promoting eco-friendly homes and drives an electric car herself.
In conclusion, I feel it is important for celebrities to use their platforms to tackle important social and environmental issues as climate change is one of the most pressing issues currently, though nobody should be forced to advocate any cause. Having influence comes with responsibility and if done correctly, and not just for brownie points, celebrities have the ability to make a huge difference to the outcome of our future. If more celebrities, especially in India, were to advocate for climate justice, it would bring more power to the climate change movement.