High-brow newspapers and broadcaster regularly rue the rise of celebrity culture in the UK. However, when celebrities endorse the favoured issues of the liberal media elite -- from Darfur to poverty reduction -- they are embraced without question.
Interviewed on the Today Programme (BBC Radio 4) yesterday [RealAudio], on the basis that she had 'signed up to reduce her personal carbon emissions by one tonne each year', actress Sienna Miller was spared any serious questioning, despite employing science-babble, making contradictory statements, and demonstrating gushing naivety. (Her performance was celebrated on the site of the Global Cool foundation, for which she is an ambassador.)
Miller began by noting that it is impossible in a modern society to "live a completely carbon-free life". Leaving aside the fact that anyone who has grown up watching Star Trek should know that human life is carbon-based, the use of the term 'carbon' in modern political discussion has become a content-free genuflection. Of course we will be told that it means 'free of activities that release substantial amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere'. But the use of the shorthand 'carbon-whatever' at every opportunity reflects the lack of thinking and reflection that underlies this crusade. More from Ms Miller:
[I]t is scientifically proven that we need to all collectively start doing things to reduce our emissions... there really isn't time, this is our planet, I don't know whether you have children, but for people who have children there isn't really going to be much of a world left for those children when they are our age.... it has actually got to a crisis point... people have to start realising that it is not someone else's responsibility, we all have to start doing this, otherwise our planet is pretty much done, very soon.
Where to start?! Science attempts to describe the natural world, helps us manipulate it, and helps us understand trends and predict events that will influence future developments. It doesn't tell us how to act: that is the domain of politics. Why are the unborn so often invoked to justify a course of action? Is it because they are pure and unsullied and thus better than us 'fallen' men and women, or because they can't point out to us that almost every generation has created a better world for succeeding generations? And what are we to understand by the statement "there isn't really going to be much of a world left for those children", or the idea that if we don't act as Ms Miller requires "our planet is pretty much done"? Back to said actress:
[If taking action against climate change is trendy] bring it on... I am not doing it for my own gain, I am doing it basically because I want to have children one day and I would like there to be a world for them to grow up in.
The obvious, if crass, response to this would be to point out that she is acting for her own gain as she wants to have children who can thrive. But the best the interviewer could manage was the obvious and banal question about whether, as a jetset actress, she might 'give up' flying. Of course, in the age of planetary genuflection you don't need to take any significant action, just show that you are part of the hive mind and 'respect Mother Earth'. Miller got away with a lame comment about the difficult of rowing herself around, and resolving instead to "take less (sic) baths".