The Corner

Energy & Environment

Rest Easy, World. Vogue Editors and Celebrities Are Here to Save the Environment.

A girl holds a banner during a climate change demonstration in Zagreb, Croatia, September 20, 2019. (Antonio Bronic/Reuters)

You may have seen the editors of the British edition of Vogue being mocked last month, for a feature where they discussed their plans for the holidays, with seemingly every contributor planning some ostentatiously luxurious vacation to some spa, resort, or top-of-the-line hotel:

I will be heading to the Cayman Islands to stay at the newly opened Palm Heights for Christmas and New Year…

I’ll be in the French Alps for New Year’s Eve; a dose of icy alpine air always seems to sort me out after the excesses of Christmas. I’m looking forward to a spell at Le Coucou in Méribel, a new hotel designed by Pierre Yovanovitch with a delicious-looking spa; and a stop-off at Le Refuge de Solaise in Val d’Isère. Only accessible via ski lift, it promises superlative stargazing and fresh powder before breakfast.

To counterbalance the abundance of December, I am taking an ascetic approach and heading to the Lanserhof [in Austria] to embark on a seven-day detox programme. It’s the best I’ve found – and I’ve done my research.

I am obsessed with the dressing gown Craig Green has designed for London’s Standard Hotel and, as the majority of my week will be spent wearing one, it’s definitely a worthy investment. A cashmere tracksuit feels equally essential – and then a wealth of beauty products to apply in front of Netflix during the evenings.

…With my friends and family at the Geejam Hotel in the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Port Antonio. Everything about Jamaica over the holidays is fresh, fun and full of flavour.

…On a road trip, zig-zagging between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Nicaragua. Known as the land of lakes and volcanoes, its lush landscape feels like one sprawling nature reserve ripe for adventure. Christmas day will be spent at El Coyol, a secluded villa on one of the world’s smallest private islands, overlooking Lake Nicaragua.

More than a few on social media chuckled at how ridiculously expensive all of the trips were, all for top staffers of a magazine whose publisher ended its internship program after a lawsuit about how badly the interns were paid. Also, the carbon emissions from all of those flights to Nicaragua, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the French Alps, and Austria are gargantuan. Taking one direct round-trip flight across the Atlantic generates 986 kg of carbon dioxide, almost one metric ton. The average American generates about 15 metric tons of carbon dioxide in a year; the average citizen of the United Kingdom about 5.6 metric tons.

Those extravagant Christmas vacation plans are even more ironic with the arrival of the first issue of Vogue in 2020 which brings the declaration of “Vogue values.” The magazine declares, “in 2020, Vogue promises to live more sustainably every day, in every way.” The print magazine includes a letter from “all of the editors in chief of Vogue” declaring: “Vogue stands committed to practices that celebrate cultures and preserve the planet for future generations. We speak with a unified voice, across 26 editions standing for the values of diversity, responsibly, and respect for individuals, communities, and for our natural environment.” Again, in a matter of hours, these editors racked up more carbon emissions than the average American does in three weeks — and that’s just from the flights, not from anything else they did on their extravagant getaways. Just how loose are the standards for “living sustainably” at Vogue?

What does Vogue do? It prints a high-circulation glossy paper magazine that showcases beautiful celebrities wearing extremely expensive clothing, sustained by advertising by the biggest luxury brands in the world. The fashion industry is responsible for an estimated 10 percent of all carbon emissions. When you see gold and diamond Bulgari watches that cost five figures advertised in its pages, do you think that gold and those diamonds wasn’t mined from somewhere? Do you think the leather in the Sketchers footwear doesn’t come from cows?

The new issue includes a profile of Stella McCartney, declaring, “for McCartney, sustainability isn’t a buzzword, an aspiration, or an abstract concept. It’s a way of life.” This goes well with McCartney’s declaration yesterday that she is “proud to join forces” with Joaquin Phoenix, because he’s chosen to wear the same tuxedo to all of Hollywood’s ceremonies this awards season. She gushes that Phoenix “chooses to make choices for the future of the planet.” Again, all Phoenix is doing is wearing the same tuxedo to multiple events. Are single-use tuxedos common in Hollywood?

Pledges about “living sustainably” are usually meaningless poses and proclamations that have negligible effect on the environment. We are awash in celebrities who live opulent, much-envied, sumptuous lifestyles with gargantuan carbon emissions, and who contend that like Vogue, they are committed to living sustainably because they say they’re committed to living sustainably.

Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard contends that he became a billionaire by accident and with great regret, because “it’s all growth, growth, growth, and that’s what’s destroying the planet.”  Actress Emma Thompson suggests that her flights to climate conferences are mitigated by the fact that she wishes she had a better option: “Lots of people who protest about climate have to fly to join conferences, because there is no choice. And as I said at the time, we have all been asking for clean energy for many decades now.”

This is empty preening and meaningless nonsense, and all of these people deserve every bit of mockery that they get.

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