This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Celebrities are making public pronouncements about the upcoming climate summit in Paris. Just as they did about the Copenhagen summit six years ago.
Ben Pile draws our attention to Action/2015 – which describes itself as a “movement to end poverty, inequality and dangerous climate change.” Its website includes an open letter signed by a suite of celebrities including Ben Affleck, Bono, Matt Damon, Mia Farrow, Annie Lennox, and Sting.
Addressed to world leaders, the letter declares that humanity is at a “turning point.” If said leaders make the wrong decisions this year, it says, we may “regret it for generations to come.” This is a “historic chance” to do the right thing. There should be no “sleep-walking…towards one of the greatest failures of recent history.”
Here’s how the letter ends:
Let’s be clear: the actions we take in 2015 will decide which way the world turns for decades to come. Please take the right path. [bold added]
Ben Pile’s analysis is that the signatories of such letters are displaying a “pathological narcissism.” How large an ego does a person need to have to imagine that they themselves are present at the precise moment in history when the direction of future decades is being determined?
A few years ago, in Eco Narcissists & Their Last Chances, I expressed a similar view, pointing to a voice-actor-turned-activist quoted by the media in 1970. We “don’t have much more than a decade left,” he declared, “This generation will be the last one with a chance to do anything.”
Forty-five years later that opinion now seems absurdly self-important. The general public has almost no memory of that actor or of the environmental cause du jour of the time (over-population).
It’s clear that Action/2015 expects great things from the UN climate summit scheduled for Paris at the end of this year. But remember, this is just a rinse and repeat of 2009 – when celebrities similarly strove to build momentum for the climate summit held in Copenhagen that December.
In October 2009, Bob Geldoff, Duran Duran, and dozens of other musicians “launched the world’s first digital musical petition.” As reported by the Guardian newspaper, merely downloading a copy of their newly-recorded version of the song, Beds Are Burning, added one’s name to a petition “aimed at pressuring world leaders to make a hard-hitting deal over climate change.” (The online reviews of the song at Amazon.com are caustic.)
It’s worth noting that while former United Nations’ Secretary General Kofi Annan helped promote that particular petition – as did the “global advertising giant Havas Worldwide” – it now seems impossible to discover how many names it actually garnered.
The UN was the instigator of another online petition campaign that year, called “Seal the Deal!”. The campaign’s website declared that humanity’s existence hinged on the outcome of the climate “negotiations in Copenhagen” and that “Public support must be galvanized.”
The website highlighted the participation of fashion designers and artists, and listed the International Advertising Agency as a partner – in addition to an array of activist groups. Yet it appears that the combined influence of these forces persuaded less than 438,000 people worldwide to sign the petition. (By comparison, a petition started by a German university student concerning the recording of YouTube videos for private use attracted a million signatures in only three weeks during July 2012, and was closed after accumulating nearly 4.4 million names.)
Most celebrities are, by definition, exhibitionists. They’re the sort of people who need to be constantly flattered and admired. Hopping on board the UN’s ad-agency-powered climate change express is just another way this sort of person says: Look at marvelous me!