Celebrity Carbon


On a recent episode of the Daily Show, comedian Lewis Black took some well-deserved potshots at a number of our favorite celebrities, beginning with Matt Damon.

Black ran a clip of Damon, looking earnestly into the camera, about to let us know what we can do to help save the earth. "Now," Matt begins, "if your house is like my house-"

That was as far as he got, because Black pushed the Pause button and said simply, "It isn't."

Point taken. It's bad enough that the media have to keep us abreast of every boring detail of these people's lives. It's bad enough that we're barraged with tons of misinformation about global climate change. But do we really need to be lectured by celebrity ninnies about how we have to become better stewards of the planet?

The hypocrisy is mind-boggling.

Take rock stars, for instance U2. Now, don't get us wrong. We like U2. U2 is one of the greatest bands of all time. Problem is, they don't always stick to what they do best. Bono in particular feels compelled to use his celebrity platform to push his own agenda, and that includes global warming which, he states, is inescapably linked with global hunger. Perhaps, when he vents in public, he ought to be a bit more aware of where foot is in relation to mouth.

Now, it's nice to be against hunger. Nobody's for hunger. But let's assume for the sake of argument that global warming (GW) is real, and that it's caused by humans' carbon emissions. It then follows that those who are doing the most to reduce global hunger are those who create a very small "carbon footprint," the current buzz phrase for estimating one's personal contribution to increasing carbon dioxide levels.

Thus, if one truly believes in the warming/hunger connection, as Bono claims to, then it's logical to assume that he must be terribly concerned about his carbon footprint. Uh huh. Check out these excerpts from a press release celebrating one of U2's tours, and remember, they're boasting about it:

"The stage ... featured vidi walls, 36 video monitors, numerous television cameras, two separate mix positions, 26 on-stage microphones, 176 speakers, and 11 elaborately painted Trabants, several of which were suspended over the stage with spotlights inserted into headlights, which all required 1 million watts of power to operate: enough to run 2,000 homes." [Emphasis added.]

A million watts probably required a lot of fossil fuel combustion to generate. And of course it doesn't end with the performance. You have to get all that equipment to the site, and that took a fleet of 52 trucks, none of them, presumably, running on hydrogen.

Way to limit those emissions, guys.

And what'd you think about Sheryl Crow's comment a few months back that we should all start using just one sheet of toilet paper per bathroom visit? We're pretty sure she follows her own prescription, since she has to do something to make up for the three tractor trailers, four buses and six cars in her entourage. Or maybe not. Maybe the reason her dressing room requirements include Bombay gin and Schweppes tonic is that her lifestyle might otherwise be a little tough to face.

John Travolta is another GW fan fave. At the premiere of his most recent film, he was heard to say that everyone must "do their bit" to fight global warming, and opined that "We have to think about alternative methods of fuel." This after driving down the red carpet on a Harley Davidson. You couldn't make this stuff up.

In order to completely appreciate why John is so much fun, though, you have to see an aerial view of his house. You'd be forgiven if you thought the shot was taken from a helicopter hovering over La Guardia (see below).

John Travolta's Home
(photo source: Daily Mail)

Yep, John's humble abode looks just like any old airport, with a central hub and subsidiary terminals leading off of it to his private runway. Makes sense to have a private runway when you have five, count 'em, five planes-three Gulfstreams, a Lear, and ... a custom Boeing 707!

John's footprint is estimated at 800 tons of carbon emissions per year, a hundred times that of the average person. But fear not. If we screw up the planet, he says with a straight face, we can always "think about other planets and dome cities."

By the way, did you catch any of the Live Earth concert, broadcast around the world on July 7 to raise awareness about climate change? Sadly, we missed it. But from what we hear, we understand that Madonna brought down the house.

That'd be the same Madonna who flew as many as 100 technicians, dancers, background singers, managers and family members on a 56-date world tour in private jets and commercial airliners, leading last year's tour to produce 440 tonnes of CO2 in four months.

Would that this kind of nonsense were confined to musicians and actors, but of course it isn't.

Al Gore can rightfully lay claim to the top spot among the various GW Chicken Littles. The man has been tirelessly crisscrossing the country (by horse cart, no doubt) in order to call attention to the crisis. He even has an Academy Award.

But what's happening back on the home front?

Well, the Tennessee Center for Policy Research says that utility bills obtained from public records indicate that Mr Gore's 20-room house and swimming pool in Nashville used nearly 221,000 kWh in 2006, compared with an average home's yearly consumption of 10,656.

A Gore spokeswoman responded by pointing out that Al and his wife Tipper work from home (at least, when they're there), and are therefore likely to use more energy. The former Second Couple is in the process of installing solar panels and low-energy light bulbs to reduce consumption from the grid, she added, and besides, the Gores "also do the carbon emissions offset."

Say what? In case you're unfamiliar with this particular dance, here's how it works (you can do it, too, if you want): you're concerned about your carbon footprint, so you simply go to a carbon-credits firm and pay some money, they get somebody far away to reduce his emissions, and presto, you're "carbon neutral."

Better still, Al buys his carbon offsets from himself. No kidding. He gets them from Generation Investment Management LLP, an outfit designed to "deliver superior long-term investment returns," and of which he is chairman and a founding partner. Neat.

Hopefully, the day will come when these would-be Cassandras will shut up, or at least direct their efforts toward real environmental problems, such as deforestation, overfishing, toxic waste dumping, and the like.

But don't count on it.

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Posted 07-24-2007 11:43 PM by DougHornig
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