Do as we tell, not as we do

At beginning of this week, eleven Flemish celebrities wrote an open letter to the Federal and Regional Governments, threatening with legal action when failing to take action on climate change within 30 days. After that, they will proceed to court. They want a reduction of emissions of 40% before 2030 and 85-90% before 2050 to keep global temperature below 2 °C.

As if there is a control knob to influence global temperatures.

It was inspired by the actions of Urgenda, which done the same in The Netherlands last year.

The group behind this action is klimaatzaak (Climate Case). They choose the beginning of this week because it was also the start of the climate top in Lima. The media, as always, uncritically took it over and even whipped it up. We got loads of climate propaganda poured over us in the last days.

The action seemed to backfire. The reaction of the public was devastating. I heard and read things like

  • Can’t they act normal for once?
  • Don’t they have anything else to do?
  • How do they have the guts to sue the government without a political mandate?
  • If they want the politics to change, they just have to vote like normal people do!
  • They themselves are traveling by planes!
  • That is easy to say for them, they themselves have a carbon footprint of a small African country!
  • and so on…

I didn’t really expect so many reactions. Apparently, there seems to be a large gap between minds of the public and the minds of the activists/media. It was also striking how many of the public knew about the pause, the lack of debate, the “consensus” and many other subjects the media fails to tell us about.

Minister Schauvliege (Flemish Minister of Environment, Nature and Agriculture) also reacted. She said that this was a matter of us all and asked whether those celebrities could acknowledge their own emissions.

She hit the nail straight on the head.

This seems to be the Achilles heel for those celebrities. Two of those eleven celebs were very vocal in this, but weren’t exactly free of climate sins. They seem to have a huuuuuuuge footprint.

The first one is Nic Balthazar (Belgian director and presenter) and a frequent traveler, not only for his business in Los Angeles, but also his job as a presenter in “Vlaanderen Vakantieland” (can be roughly translated to “Flanders Holiday Country”). Despite the name, the program gives also a lot of tips for vacations abroad and those reportages brought him to Madeira, Japan, Jordan, Ireland (2x), Senegal, Guadeloupe, Slovinia, Sicily, Korea (2x), Turkey (2x), Croatie, Egypt, Spain (5x), USA (4x), Sahara, Algeria, Virgin Islands, Canary Islands, Germany, Dominican Republic (2), Bahamas (2x), Switzerland, Ecuador, Uganda, Sweden, France (3x) and of course The Netherlands (45x).

The second is Francesca Vanthielen (actress and presenter) who traveled for “Go2!” (another travel program) to more than 60 countries, went to Calcutta to meet Mother Theresa, was active in G1000, traveled with Greenpeace, went to Buenos Aires to take tango lessons and so on and so on. This is how she put it herself just last year:

Vanthielen: “No. I have done more traveling than people do in a lifetime. When people make one big trip in life, that is sometimes not enough. I’ve really been anywhere. In every continent. Not in every country of course – there are nearly 200 in total. I only know one region of a country. But there are years that I haven’t traveled.

They know how to play the media and the media loved it: some celebs who want to save the world. There was immediate reaction the following day. In the news paper Het Laatste Nieuws, two pages with justifications why the travel habits of those celebs don’t matter. Balthazar asked: “Do I need to live in a mud house before I can say something?” and Vanthielen said: “It isn’t about what I do”.

In a way they are right. There is no need to live in a mud house before you can say something. People can be right, even if they don’t live by what they preach. In this case: even when they have a huge footprint. But that is not the issue.

It is only one side of the story. There are other sides as well. Looking at it for example from the standpoint of the individual responsibility, than having such a footprint is not a very responsible thing to do. How can we believe them when they ask the government (therefor us) to make sacrifices while they themselves have no problem emitting? If they really, really believe that CO2 is such a bad thing and we urgently should wean off fossil fuels, then by using fossil fuels they unconsciously show to the public that they think it is not such an urgent issue after all.


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