Maybe it's time for celebrities to do more than just "raise awareness"
We all know Leonardo DiCaprio cares about saving the planet. He’s involved in a number of initiatives aimed at reducing waste and pollution. Apart from dating women half his age, it’s what he’s most famous for. But, in the wake of the national climate strikes, he’s not the only celebrity expressing serious concern for the planet. Ahead of their appearances on the season 45 premiere of Saturday Night Live, Billie Eilish and Woody Harrelson sat down to discuss the severity of climate change.
The short video opens with images of cataclysmic destruction: Glaciers melting, highways flooding, forests burning. “Our Earth is warming up and our oceans are rising,” Eilish said. “Extreme weather is wrecking millions of lives.”
As shots of the Amazon burning continue to flash, Harrelson begins speaking. “History shows us that when enough people rise up and demand change, those in power have no choice but to act.”
Eilish outlined the efforts of the global climate strike and spoke about personal changes people could make to reduce their impact on the environment. Harrelson shared which organizations working to fight against climate change viewers could support and encouraged everyone to make their voices count.
The video is, of course, a great sentiment. We all should be taking action to fight against climate change because it is an existential threat to the world. But as some social media users pointed out, the celebrities who have joined in the calls for a fight against climate change haven’t been very specific about what needs to be done.
“Using your voice for change” carries little meaning when push comes to shove. There are no specific demands of powerful leaders outlined in Eilish and Harrelson’s video. No pieces of policy proposed or endorsed — and that’s not unique to these two SNL guests. In many celebrity endorsements of major social and political issues (of which climate change is both), the details can seem a bit scarce. No to racism. No to sexism. No to total climate destruction. We’re in agreement on that part. But what would be particularly helpful is for celebrities to use their platform to outline some of the exact ways that specific powerful people (other celebrities included!) need to be held accountable.
For climate change, experts say it is nothing short of major systemic change; a complete restructuring of the economy, a radical reduction in emissions, the end of relying on fossil fuels. It will not be as simple as attending strikes or signing petitions or even donating money. Though we should all do those things, too.
It’s also not up to celebrities appearing on SNL to fix this problem. Even with Woody Harrelson and Billie Eilish's combined net worth of $70 million, they’re not close to the wealth and power of the people who have a real ability to address climate change. But it would be really cool for celebrities with that hefty a platform to do something riskier than calling for general “awareness.” For them to call out the big decision-makers — some of whom likely sign their paychecks — and demand change.
Celebrities exist in a unique space where they can tell us to ask for more, and we’ll listen. It’d be great if they asked for more themselves.