Star Power

The influence of celebrities and film in protecting wildlife and our planet.

Celebrities, love them or hate them are vital in promoting messages of conservation to mass audiences. There is growing evidence of the value of this star power, lending not only their name to the cause but getting involved in projects, raising awareness. From sports stars to actors and singers to even royal family members there is an increasing number that encourage us to save endangered species, highlight our damaging impact on the climate, and teaching us about the harm being caused to our precious planet. At a time of political and environmental uncertainty an immense injection of celebrity power may make a huge difference in educating and forcing people as well as countries to take action. Ambassadors and supporters of various conservation groups such as WWF, PETA and Wildaid include the likes of David Beckham, Christian Bale, Kim Basinger, Martin Freeman, Bryan Adams, Paul McCartney, Harrison Ford, Jackie Chan and Prince William.

China's Yao Ming, a former NBA basketball star, has made a huge difference on awareness of species - not just with the public but with the government too - due to his popularity. "He proposed to the National People's Congress the ban on ivory sales, which was later adopted by the Chinese government," said Peter Knights from Wildaid.

Superb Starling - Kenya, Chris Guggiari-Peel

Prince William has also been involved in environmental campaigns particularly in 'Roll with the Pangolins' one of the most illegally traded animals in the world. Working alongside Angry Birds to get the youth to understand that these are the most heavily traded mammals and proposals to give them greater protection successfully passed. "By spreading the message about poaching, I hope you can be part of a movement that says no to poached ivory and rhino horn, and many other animal parts" - Prince William.

"To really ensure the survival of species, you need hearts and minds. And that's where celebrities really can connect to the public" (BBCs environment correspondent, Matt McGrath).

Celebrities and Film

Films have a massive impact on their mass audiences, particularly those, such as documentary films, that deliver important messages. Combining both celebrity and film is very powerful tool indeed.

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the well-known ambassadors in promoting conservation, striving to lessen the impact of climate change, thus protecting the planet and its wildlife. He created the documentary, The 11th Hour (2007) on the state of the natural environment. It was released the same year which the Fourth Assessment Report of the United Nations global warming panel IPCC was published.

DiCaprio's Appian Way Productions and Paramount studios are also in talks to re-create the 1990s cartoon series Captain Planet. This may gain interest with celebrities 'hoping to burnish their environmental credentials with a cameo appearance' using eco-propaganda on impressionable children. In the original cartoon the episodes followed Captain Planet as he battled on behalf of Gaia (against a range of environmental villains) teaching young children the importance of unity in environmental campaigns.

Before the Flood

"Try to have a conversation with anyone about climate change and people just tune out," says Leonardo DiCaprio in his new film. Before The Flood (2016) a documentary film focusing on climate change, has just been released on National Geographic (you can watch this on Youtube as well) directed by Fisher Stevens, Martin Scorsese as executive producer in collaboration with DiCaprio; in a hope to galvanise action on climate change. "I'm hoping this will energise a whole new generation," says Stevens. "We want to get people inspired to start thinking about this in a different way. With Leo it's taking it to the next level."

DiCaprio's star status and huge fan base brings vital prominence and visibility to the film. Not only are his celebrity credentials important, but also two decades of his passion and experience of campaigning on climate change. The film features the star addressing a rally for Earth Day back in 2000 and calling for the world to cut emissions. Shocking clips of important figures denouncing climate change, branding it a hoax (most of these which have firm places as heads of the biggest fossil fuel companies and the new President elect). Images of the horrific impact our activities have taken such as the oil sand pits (as mentioned in the documentary-resembling something like Mordor from Lord of the Rings than the beautiful expansive forest it used to be). That ardour hasn't cooled as the world has got hotter. "I get an email a day from Leo sending me an article, sending me something we should be doing [on climate change]", Stevens says. "He gets very emotional and angry [on the issue]."

Other Films

Other significant conservation documentaries such as Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth or Josh Fox's How to Let Go of the WorldandLove All the Things Climate Can’t Change and Gasland are important in getting various environmental issues across. Another is Peter Knights from Wildaid, who worked with Yao Ming on a documentary designed to raise awareness of the impacts of consumption of elephants and rhinos horns and tusks. The Day After Tomorrow, Interstellar and Avatar are amongst several films that all feature the effects of a mistreated planet and the consequences humanity has to deal with. Though often dramatized for films these narratives focus on a potentially real, substantial issues and potential outcomes for us neglecting our precious planet. Even 'children's films' such as Happy Feet and Pixar's Wall-E serve as a warning of our actions if we do not change them soon.

If you have not already done so please take less than two hours of your time to watch Before The Flood. Even better-watch all these films and ask yourself what do these mean. What can you do to help?

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Further Reading

#Climatechange #celebrities #documentaries #conservation

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