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Mixed Media

Hollywood | Books


Green Glitterati

Celebrities give props to the environment

The scene: the Utah desert, 35 miles from Salt Lake City. Tons of nuclear waste could soon be rumbling toward the Skull Valley Indian Reservation, whose band of Goshutes is already beset by nearby nerve-gas storage and hazardous-waste incinerators. Enter James Cromwell, who played the U.S. president in the nuclear-weapons thriller The Sum of All Fears. In 2002, the actor addressed senators in Utah and traveled to Washington, D.C., to fight a proposed storage facility for 44,000 tons of high-level nuclear waste on Goshute land. "The hazardous materials will be transported on trains and trucks through highly populated areas," he said at a press conference at the Capitol. "The storage land is on an earthquake fault line and subject to flooding. The whole process must be flawless–or there could be dire consequences."

Celebrities like Cromwell are speaking out on behalf of the environment more than ever before. They’re teaming up directly with conservation organizations large and small, or working through nonprofits devoted to linking Tinseltown with environmental issues.

Granted, there are movie stars with lavish, wasteful lifestyles who attach themselves to Earth-saving causes. But for every ten celebrities who agitate for clean air before heading home in their Lincoln Navigators, there’s an articulate, committed environmentalist. (Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, and Tim Robbins were among the stars who pulled up to this year’s Academy Awards event in hybrids and electric vehicles instead of limos.)

Robert Kennedy Jr., the reluctant celeb, serves as an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council–which has also lured the likes of the Rolling Stones and James Taylor to help with its issues. Working with the Environmental Media Association, John Travolta and Jane Fonda have helped raise environmental awareness by slipping it into movie and television plotlines. At the prompting of EMA, for example, a Law & Order lieutenant reports that the blue fleece at a crime scene is made of "recycled plastic bottles."

Another Hollywood green group, Earth Communications Office, was founded in 1989 by entertainment attorney Bonnie Reiss, who discovered that many of the biggest stars were willing to bring some high gloss to the realm of the tree-hugger. Boasting a member roster that includes Cromwell, Pierce Brosnan, and Kevin Bacon, ECO made its mark with emotional public-service announcements shown before the main features in movie theatres all over the globe. Footage of pristine waters, roiling clouds, leaping dolphins, and time-lapsed sunsets with Willie Nelson singing "What a Wonderful World" as soundtrack encouraged viewers to "reduce, reuse, and recycle."

ECO has moved on to other campaigns, including one narrated by Patrick Stewart, who urges viewers to consider the global trend toward overconsumption as the root of the planet’s most pressing environmental problems. Another ECO effort includes scuba diver Sharon Lawrence, formerly of NYPD Blue, educating the public about coral reef degradation.

ECO’s current campaign addresses global warming and the steps we can take to change our fossil-fueling ways. Click on and up pops a muscular Kevin Bacon who pronounces, "Six degrees can make a world of difference. Not separation–temperature." Bacon has played troubled kids and bad guys and commands big bucks for his work. But he and Joshua Jackson (TV’s Dawson’s Creek), Jacqueline Obradors (NYPD Blue), and Jorja Fox (CSI) have volunteered their names and faces to this Web site’s worthy cause, easing the transition to the site’s somewhat unglamorous "Climate Facts" and "Carbon Footprint Calculator."

The Goshutes, too, hope that their big name will help them get their message out to a broad audience. There’s nothing like having Academy Award—nominated Cromwell, who played pastoral, pure-of-heart Farmer Hoggett in the movie Babe, stand before news cameras to declare, "These radioactive waste dumps put us all at risk. We cannot afford to be silent!" –Malerie Yolen-Cohen

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