Before we start, we want to say right off the bat that we know that there is a segment of Postconsumers out there who hate when we write about celebrities at all. After all, what can a celebrity, living an opulent lifestyle and making millions of dollars, possibly know about working towards sustainability and away from addictive consumerism? We’re on record as not thinking that’s true! On the road to postconsumerism, everybody needs to find their own level. And a celebrity who uses his or her money and influence to improve the world is doing a great thing with a level of reach and influence that the postconsumer, eco and sustainability movements all need. So, who were our favorite celebrities this year? Let’s run it down! We promise this is the only celebrity piece you’ll see this end of year!
Our favorite socially conscious celebrity of the year is a bit of a tragic story. Simpson’s co-creator Sam Simon has brought laughs to just about every person we’ve ever met over the years through the antics of animated Bart Simpson and his family. Unfortunately, Simon was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. We all know that the number of wealthy individuals who simply give all of their money away at death is minimal, but Simon is donating the bulk of his fortune and future royalties due his estate from The Simpsons to his charitable foundation, The Sam Simon Foundation. The foundation focuses on animal rights issues and does some amazing work. Thanks to Sam’s understanding that action trumps stuff, the rich royalties from The Simpsons will be helping animals (and their companions) for many years to come. While the story has sadness to it, we love the lesson that people can’t hold onto money forever and ever.
The “Oprah of the New Generation” has amazing reach and influence, and she’s used it to support some good (and consumer related) causes this year. Her viral video in which she takes it to Abercrombie and Fitch for their absurd statement that they only make clothes for pretty people is priceless. It also addresses a dangerous part of the consumer media machine – the fact that the machine can influence not only what we buy but how we feel about ourselves. Earlier in the year, Ellen helped to fight against “Ag Gag” bills. Those are bills that big food industries are using to keep activists from sharing damaging secret video footage of what really goes on behind industrial food doors. In good news, the governor of Tennessee successfully vetoed that state’s Ag Gag bill. Don’t you have a right to know about your food? You do.
We love Matt Damon. We love Water.org. But the reason Matt Damon made our list this year is simply because he created this amazing campaign in which he vows to stop using toilets in order to draw awareness to the global water shortage. He called the campaign his “Toilet Strike.” It’s hysterically funny, but it’s also one of the most effective efforts we’ve seen to bring the impact of the global water crisis home. The water crisis is one of the most important environmental issues facing the planet, but because it’s not as visible or obvious in western industrialized countries, it doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves. We adore Damon’s commitment to the cause and his creative way to tackle it. (Though we will not be giving up our toilets this week!)
To be fair, at this point we think of actor Mark Ruffalo more as an activist than as a celebrity, but that’s what got him into the number four slot on our list. Ruffalo spent most of his year again raising awareness (ever more successfully each year) about the grave dangers of fracking. He also helped to raise awareness about the dangers of the Keystone Pipeline. We’ve given him the number four spot because of the pure amount of time and energy (and his own resources) he’s put into fighting against environmental destruction.
Stephen Colbert is pretty much on our favorite everything list every year, but this year he’s on our list because of his brilliant segment on GMO wheat. We probably feel like given global food shortages and population booms, the GMO debate is a little more complicated than just saying we should outlaw them all. But the fact that they may be necessary in some cases is the biggest reason why having visibility to them, regulations about them and proper labeling, controls and understanding of their impact is so important. Colbert nails it in this segment on Frankenwheat.
Honorable Mentions: The Big Four
Of course, fantastic work got done this year by the “big four” of celebrity activism. Naturally we’re talking about Clooney, DiCaprio, Jolie and Pitt. Think what you may about them (and we love them all), but they put the time, effort and resources into using their money and celebrity to improve the world.
Photo Credit: Ian Muttoo via Flickr