Putting the Cool Back into the Environment

goretruth.jpgCigarettes were cool – not so much anymore. In popular American TV Show, F.R.I.E.N.D.S, Rachel and Monica gross out when Chandler lights up. The cigarette issue is a closed one in Hollywood – now, it’s all about the environment. Not having a cause or charity is a liability – it’s bad PR. There are more and more celebrities who’s names are synonymously attached with various environmental causes which are as high profile as they get, think Clooney – Sudan, Jolie – orphans, Bono – AIDS and poverty, Leonardo – global warming, Bob Geldof – Ethiopia but more specifically poverty and debt relief, Ashley Judd – AIDS education, Oprah – pretty much everything, and they spiral to the more absurd, Sheryl Crow – toilet paper. I kid you not, Crow has suggested using “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required” as she considers it a total waste.

Arriving for the Academy Awards in a sleek shiny over the top limousine was the Big Dream. Not anymore. Actors like Morgan Freeman, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Penelope Cruz and Johnny Depp, to name just a few arrive in environmentally friendly electric cars. In fact you will be hard-pressed to find a star that is arriving in a limo. You see, being an activist provides a certain class. It says – hey look, I’m not just ravishingly good looking, I have character too, I’ve got conviction to believe in something and champion a cause. Plus it gives them a much wider spectrum for their own celebrity. They highlight themselves in the consciousness of people who don’t usually read entertainment magazines. Even the people who do follow tabloid news closely are going to have some idea about what their stars are campaigning for. A Leonardo fan will google search him for shirtless pictures, but side by side will also find youtube clips of him talking about global warming. All those people who voted Clooney the sexiest man alive will also have some idea about Darfur, even if it just knows that it exists.

So a celebrity and a cause is a win – win situation. Yet why the lack of celebrity causes in our own thriving film industry? If the personal and professional payoff of altruism is so great, why don’t more stars get involved? Cut to the Bollywood scenario – and my mind is blank. The only person I can really think of is Preity Zinta speaking for the bravery awards and I have a vague image of her holding a broomstick in front of hordes of cameramen for some clean Mumbai campaign. The ubiquitous Big B I think I’ve seen doing some polio ads but mostly I remember him for the horrific and hideously embarrassing Chavanprash commercials. Yes, he did give the voice over for the March of the Penguins but for someone of his stature it’s too little too late.

There’s no doubt that is someone – any A list star endorsed an environmental cause it would skyrocket. Previously I would have been skeptical, but I’ve seen enough middle aged woman go silly and breathless over SRK. He has huge potential power in his hands and he knows better than anyone else that he has an adoring fan base across spectrums and indeed countries. If for a change he stopped comparing himself to Genghis Khan, yak on about (mindless) video games and saying he could romance even a cow – let’s say he endorsed something simple – like recycling milk packets, segregating waste into blue, green and red bins, using solar friendly batteries – isn’t it highly probable that those very women (who form a sizeable force both in numbers and otherwise) would take heed? They do after all run households. If they shell out cash for his movies, and read filmy magazines cover to cover isn’t their all likelihood that somewhere down the line his mentioning to conserve electricity will make a difference? If sales of Tag Heur go up because SRK is their brand ambassador does it not make correlative sense that plastic consumption will decrease if he speaks against it? Our stars in true tribute to the escapist nature of Bollywood cinema just couldn’t be bothered.

Is there a difference in our very consciousness? Don’t we have enough problems to grapple with? Could an Indian really be bothered if at the rate we’re going there’ll be no energy or ice caps left by 2050? Does someone who has no running water, regular power cuts, close to no public transport – in a dog eats dog world honestly care? Our government and indeed political system has no concrete policy on climate change or for addressing environmental concerns. So why should a lay man be any different?

One person I can think of who without any political leaning is genuinely working to control climate change, it’s Prince Charles. The Prince of Wales is quietly and with minimum media fuss managing his Home Farm in Gloucestershire at a profit of a million pounds a year and counting. His organic food, drink and luxury body care brand(all home grown) was one of the first brands to push the market for organic food in Britain. So if America has its royalty – Hollywood and Britain has its Prince to put the ‘cool’ in to environment concerns – what about us?

Do we have any moral ambassadors to remind us about what could happen to the environment? Is there any recognised figure to show us the way? Or will we continue our happily impervious struggle to make the best of what we’ve got? Will our famed tolerance and adaptability help us when we can’t see because of pollution and can’t eat because of toxin poisoning? Is it even rational to point towards some bloke who happens to be famous? If we as young people are the happiest and most confident in the world does it not make sense that we ourselves show the way? Ultimately we know that the environment in spite of being something so general is acutely personal. It is our own level of responsibility that can and will if at all change things. It is our own cross to bear, we hold the baton and in a hugely underestimated way, the power really is in our hands.

Inayat Sabhikhi