Celebrities can make 'going green' sexy

It's hard not to be cynical with so many celebs in search of a cause these days. And I confess to a sense of deja vu over Thandie Newton's conversion from SUV driver to climate campaigner.

The British star of the Oscar-winning Crash has apparently ditched her 4x4 in favour of a low-carbon car after being targeted by a Greenpeace campaigner, and is now writing to fellow Hollywood celebs to shame them into action. Greenpeace is delighted, particularly as this all coincided with a study into the environmental damage wreaked by 4x4s, demonising not only drivers but 'the real villains' who market ever bigger, heavier, polluting cars.

I for one wouldn't be seen dead in a conventional 4x4 - and judging by the lack of furore around Gordon Brown's £100 4x4 tax stunt, Greenpeace seems to be pushing against an open door. But reading the study, I couldn't help wondering whether attack is the best form of environmental defence.

Climate change comms to date seems to have relied on two strategies: fear of an uncertain future, and guilt over our selfish, irresponsible society. All of which is fair but doesn't encourage change.

No matter how horrific the facts of climate change may be, beyond a certain level scaremongering actually induces apathy - a sense that the problem is too great for individual action to solve. As sustainability agency Futerra recently found, despite the traditional clarion call to protect the Earth for our kids, ironically it is the childless who care more about the environment. Those with kids are too preoccupied with day-to-day worries to fear too much for the future.

And as Al Gore points out in his touring slide show, 'Earth in the Balance Sheet' (soon on mainstream release in cinemas as An Inconvenient Truth - trust me, it's worth seeing), one of the issues faced by doom-mongers is that many of us believe it is now too late to halt environmental decline.

In fact, many of the the issues around climate change are too complex for most punters to take in. Gore, who has remarkable communication skills, may be able to explain why global warming will plunge Britain into a second ice age, but in the most part environmentalists' efforts would be better spent communicating solutions - in particular finding ways to increase the status, and let's face it, sexiness, of going green. There's a reason why high-income families are addicted to their 4x4s,and it isn't just because they can fit their kids in the back.

That's why Newton et al are likely to prove a real asset to the environment.

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