Around 400,000 concerned citizen and celebrity activists gathered in New York City this past weekend to express their concern about the climate and health of the earth. But are they really as “green” as they want you to believe?
The short answer: No.
The People’s Climate March, a protest event that took place in cities around the world, sought to draw the attention of world leaders to address climate problems by enforcing fossil fuel cutting policies. However, throughout the march and following it, people pointed out that the protesters themselves engaged in many not-so-earth-friendly activities, including littering and traveling in diesel buses across the country. In fact, two of the movement’s front-runners, Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore, use expensive fossil-fuel guzzling toys like private jets and yachts. So are these climate activists ready to lead by example, or are they going to continue their hypocritical practices?
For the moment, hypocrisy wins.
In the wake of a UN meeting to discuss climate, climate activists met in New York City to demonstrate their concern about the state of the planet. In fact, various climate groups from all over the country bused many protesters to the People’s Climate March in New York City. While public transportation like busing is seen as “greener,” research conducted by the Reason Foundation found that, with a few exceptions, “there is considerable question if [public] transit has any energy and emissions advantages over automobiles.”
Another problem created by the bused-in protesters is diesel emissions. Diesel fuel is used in large engines such as those found in buses, trucks, and construction equipment. The American Cancer Society claims that diesel emissions make up much of our outdoor air pollution, and that it is linked to many health problems including cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. The Union of Concerned Scientists found that diesel-run vehicles account for half of all nitrogen oxides and two-thirds of all particulate matter emissions from American transportation. According to the UCS, particulate matter is an irritant that can harm the eyes, lungs, nose, and throat, and may lead to heart disease and even premature death. Nitrogen oxides irritate the respiratory system, which can lead to coughing and reduced lung capacity.
All of these environmental hazards and potential health complications do not seem very “green.”
In addition to using gas-guzzling buses, protesters also had a nasty habit of leaving trash behind. Pictures of coffee cups, water bottles, soda cans, and trash–a lot of which was recyclable–left by climate activists flooded the Internet. In fact, Gothamist reports that paper and cardboard make up 40% of the waste left in North American landfills! In fact, more than 6.5 million trees were chopped down to make U.S. disposable coffee cups in just 2006. Some activists began cleaning up after their messy comrades, while others made excuses for their behavior. One excuse went to so far as suggesting these activists were helping by providing a source of income to the homeless who turn in recyclables.
It wasn’t just the protesters who were hypocritical: their celebrity poster children were as well. Leonardo DiCaprio was quoted as saying, “Raising awareness on the most pressing environmental issues of our time is more important than ever.” Oddly enough, he didn’t make these comments while doing karate on his private yacht, or partying on a $678 million yacht at the World Cup, or taking a private jet to South Africa, or staying at any one of his 5 luxury homes.
The amount of energy needed to maintain such an extravagant lifestyle is astounding. Consider the super yacht: a super yacht can burn up to 500 liters of diesel fuel per hour–but only when it’s not moving! It costs around $2,500 an hour to actually go somewhere. These yachts burn the same diesel fuel that the American Cancer Society warns can lead to cancer, lung and heart disease, and a number of other health issues.
Leo wasn’t the only celebrity to fly his hypocrite flag: Al Gore showed up too. Al Gore owns 3 homes, and is the executive of his family’s stock in Occidental Petroleum, a company that has faced backlash for drilling oil in ecologically sensitive areas. Al Gore even admitted to using private jets, which can cost $1,292 per hour in fuel and can burn between 100 and 372 gallons of fuel an hour. One report found that one hour in a private jet burns as much fuel as a car driving for an entire year. And what’s more, flying in a private jet contributes five times more pollution than commercially flying would.
So why do these climate activists continue to engage in planet and health harming behaviors? If the main goal of the climate march was to gain attention to world leaders to cut fossil fuel consumption, why do they themselves continue to use gas-guzzling yachts, diesel buses, and private jets? It’s time for these climate activists to step up to the plate and be the change they want to see, even if it does mean giving up their fun fossil fuel-powered toys.