Why are Celebrities Untouchable When it Comes to Climate Responsibility?

Frances Marsh | Comment Editor

It can often seem that celebrities live in another universe, but when it comes to real-world issues, can they really avoid responsibility? It recently came to light that Taylor Swift had used her private jet for 170 separate flights in 2022, and it raised questions about whether she can really be excused for this undeniable climate impact simply because of her celebrity status. Of course, her team were quick to defend her, arguing that the pop star regularly loans the jet to others and that most of the trips could not be attributed to her. Since Swift does spend much of her time in London with British boyfriend Joe Alwyn, it seems likely this is the case however many would argue this does not exempt her from all responsibility and it is certainly indicative of a wider trend amongst A-listers.

Kylie Jenner was recently branded a ‘climate criminal’ after it was revealed that she frequently took flights shorter than 20 minutes, with the shortest being just 3 minutes long. Her sisters have not avoided controversy either, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian have both been warned several times for exceeding their monthly water allowance amid the California Droughts. The Kardashians are not alone in this, over 2000 residents of the star-studded neighbourhood of Calabasas are reported by the Los Angeles Times to have broken drought restrictions with some using hundreds of thousands of gallons more water than allowed. Even celebrities who on the surface appear to have a clear conscience when it comes to the climate do not have clean records. In 2016 Leonardo Dicaprio was called out for flying on a private jet to accept an award for climate activism, which many argued was an obvious act of hypocrisy and demonstrated how out of touch the actor really was.

So why are these people allowed to continue acting as though there are no consequences for their actions, whilst everyday people ditch plastic straws? It all comes down to the parasocial relationships many of us hold with celebrities. They are held on a pedestal, unable to do any wrong in the eyes of those who follow their every move. Nobody wants to admit that their favourite singer or actor is largely contributing to the problems affecting us all. But as uncomfortable as it is, this is something we are going to need to face up to sooner rather than later. The reality is that reusable straws and separating our recycling just isn’t cutting it. We need to start implementing real systemic change, and a step towards this is no longer allowing celebrities to act as though they have no responsibility in the real world. Not only is the example they set one that people will follow, but the impact of people such as celebrities (many of whom own multiple mansions) are vastly bigger than that of a normal person. They cannot be allowed to continue as they are, in this case it is far too urgent.

Image by Eva Rinaldi via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

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