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Forget Trees - Planting Celebrities Will Save the World

19/09/2013 11:27 BST | Updated 18/11/2013 10:12 GMT

What do Colonel Gaddafi, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Cameron Diaz have in common?

This isn't the opener to a hilarious joke; all three have published individual works entitled 'The Green Book'. Gaddafi's summarised his political philosophy, the IRA's outlined its aims and tactics for beating the British Army and Diaz co-authored 'The Green Book: The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time' which offers green living advice from ecological experts including Ellen DeGeneres, Jennifer Aniston and Faith Hill.

To reiterate; this is not a joke. Diaz's book actually exists. That it possesses the same name as Gaddafi's opus and the IRA's terrorism manual is a testament to just how misguided celebrity environmentalists are.

Hollywood is brimming with stars whose fame has somehow magically afforded them environmental expertise. Diaz, along with Tim Robbins, started the 'Prius Brigade' after they arrived at the 2003 Academy Awards in the energy-saving vehicles. She also starred in a film urging Americans to learn about the environment. In an astounding display of self-importance, it was entitled 'Cameron Diaz Saves the World'.

Robert Redford, Edward Norton, Justin Timberlake, Ted Danson and George Clooney all contribute to the cacophony of support for green projects. Cate Blanchett installed energy-efficient stage lighting in Sydney Harbour Theatre and Rachel McAdams created the 'Green is Sexy' website. Prius-driver Orlando Bloom fitted his home with solar panels while penning an essay for the 'Antarctica - A call to action' book. Brad Pitt narrated a TV series on environmentally sound design and even met President Obama to discuss federally funded green housing projects, despite possessing no formal education or extensive experience in this subject.

While Pitt's concern for the environment may be genuine, there are undoubtedly those driven purely by reputation enhancement and financial gain. Oxford University's Dr Max Boykoff questioned the authenticity of celebrity environmentalism, warning that they will often hop on the eco-bandwagon without hesitation in order to remain popular.

Clearly, questions must be asked about celebrity environmentalists. Despite their laudable intentions, they are terrifically unprepared to promote green living. Their efforts to advocate eco-tourism or ethical fashion are token gestures. Driving an electric car is admirable until you take your gas-guzzling private jet to a movie premiere. It is champagne environmentalism. 'Eco-hypocrites' is an unfair description because they are usually just misinformed, but the hypocrisy is striking.

Noted eco-activist Paul McCartney was gifted a free Lexus LS600H Hybrid car, which was transported from Japan to the UK by plane, meaning that its transport footprint was over 100 times greater than it should have been. Coldplay's Chris Martin partnered with Future Forests and Women for Sustainable Development to offset CO2 emissions by helping Indian villages plant 10,000 mango trees. With villagers barely getting enough water for their own families, most of the trees died within a year.

Prius-driver Leonardo DiCaprio also basks in the self-serving glow of being perceived as an environmentally conscious planet-saver after narrating the green documentary 'the 11th hour', launching WWF's elephant conservation campaign and taking a filmmaking sabbatical to paradoxically "fly around the world doing good for the environment". Maybe his activism was triggered after environmental groups won a legal battle against the makers of his 2000 film 'The Beach', which unrepentantly destroyed vast swathes of untouched Thai landscapes to create an aesthetically pleasing set.

Harrison Ford thought that waxing his chest would somehow save the Amazon rainforest. Sheryl Crow suggested limiting the use of toilet paper. Sting's band The Police were labeled 'dirtiest band in the world' due to their gigantic carbon footprint and his wife flew her entire entourage by private jet from New York to Washington DC for a dinner. John Travolta campaigns for alternative forms of fuel yet owns five private jets and Madonna penned planet-saving lyrics yet pays a monthly bill of $10,000...for bottled-water.

Jennifer Aniston brushes her teeth in the shower, not realising that extra shower-time uses more water than a normal tap-wash would. Woody Harrelson, who adopted veganism after being inspired by the fish he saw during a scuba trip, has scaled the Golden Gate Bridge to save Redwood trees, driven across the US in a hemp-oil bus and advocated bans on animal testing. Yet he flew his favourite vegan belt and shoes from California to France after forgetting them on his trip to the Cannes Film Festival.

It isn't only movie stars who provide comically-bad anecdotes. Prince Charles pontificates about environmentalism but undertook a 7,000-mile transatlantic round trip to receive an environmental award. Vanity Fair's first green-themed issue didn't feature leading ecologists or scientists; the cover displayed Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Al Gore, and Robert Kennedy Jr. dressed as green-clad forest-pixies. Google claims to be greening the corporate way with solar-clad buildings and employee incentives to encourage walking and biking but these initiatives are undone by its $60 million dollar 'party plane' which has a 180 person capacity but carries just 50 to make way for customised showers, dining rooms and bedrooms.

Then there is Al Gore. As the figurehead of the Climate Change campaign, his 20-room, eight-bathroom mansion consumes more electricity in one month than most households do in a year. Gore was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for filming 'An Inconvenient Truth' and organising the Live Earth' concerts to raise awareness about Global Warming. The real inconvenient truth is that gathering 150 megastars required flying them a collective 223,000 miles and released nearly 32,000 tons of carbon emission in one day. The average American releases around 20 tons per year.

Despite the laughable hypocrisy, the benefits of celebrity environmentalism are obvious, even when they merely regurgitate inoffensive green buzzwords. They draw attention to unnoticed issues. They mobilise people. When they speak, we listen. However, with little in-depth knowledge of the intricacies of the subject matter, what makes them qualified to speak on global problems? With PR advisers coaching their every move, can we trust what they say?

More worryingly, celebrity endorsements often over-simplify complex issues to the point that their meaning is lost. They become superficial fads. Look at Al Gore and 'An Inconvenient Truth'; he condensed possibly the most complicated environmental issue into a flashy two hour film. What we must recognise is that, while they portray the image of the individualistic trend-setter, they are often nothing more than marketing pawns used for the financial gain of others. In a society fixated by fame, it seems that a celebrity endorsement is so powerful that the environmental movement would prefer to plant a celebrity than plant a tree.