The world has watched Australia face some of its most deadly bushfires to date. The people of Australia are suffering an inconceivable state of emergency: evacuations, lives lost, homes destroyed, thousands of wildlife wiped out and a terrifying fear for what is next.
And technology has allowed us to witness just some of the tragedy from afar. Social media posts have shown some of the consequences of the disaster, from viral videos of people rescuing koala bears, to images of the thick smog polluting the air far and wide.
The amount of circulated news not only increases awareness globally of what is going on in Oz, but heightens the urge to respond, share and do your bit. Many celebrities have taken advantage of their online platforms, but this has caused much controversy.
How can celebrities navigate their response to this disaster? Well let’s start with the easy answer: not like Kylie Jenner.
An awkward celebrity contradiction
Part of the reality TV Kardashian family, Kylie recently took to her Instagram story to express that she was “heartbroken” by the huge death toll of animals as a result of the wildfires.
Shortly after, she posted a photo showing off her pink-painted toe nails, but her pink Louis Vuitton slippers drew the most attention. Why? Because they were made from mink fur.
Many furious Twitter users spotted this hypocrisy and shared their outrage, for instance:
How can one person be devastated about wildlife dying during the fires, whilst simultaneously supporting the killing of animals for fashion?
Since these events, Kylie has reportedly donated $1 million to charities helping to combat the detrimental impact of these unforgiving bushfires.
Was this decision driven by a genuine desire to do good? Alternatively, did she feel obliged to take action in order to protect her reputation? These questions ought to be considered in relation to the wider issue of celebrity and charity.
Kylie’s contradictory morals are not only confusing, but infuriating. Perhaps it’s best to not expect too much from these famous figures.
Instead of looking up to them, we ought to take their supposedly charitable social media posts with a pinch of salt. But ignorance is not always the case with celebrities.
Celebrities taking responsibility
Celebrities are in a privileged – yet pressurising – position to take positive action, to spread the word and donate. They are presumably equipped to do both, especially the latter, with their wealth.
Although celebrities moral standards regularly come under the microscope, at least their monetary gestures can go relatively unquestioned.
Many high-profile individuals have reached into their pockets for the cause, including Elton John and Kylie Minogue.
The Australian actor Chris Hemsworth posted a call to action video on Twitter:
Similarly, the singer known as Pink shared some useful information about where to direct donations:
So despite much scepticism, there are many examples where celebrities are championing generosity during this time of urgent need.
The conflict between celebrity and sustainability
Actor Russell Crowe remained at the centre of the crisis, as he missed the Golden Globes to stay in Australia and face the ferocious fires. But he directed his attention towards what caused these fires.
He won an award and boldly wrote in his acceptance speech, which was read aloud by Jennifer Aniston in his absence: “Make no mistake, the tragedy unfolding in Australia is climate change-based,”
“We need to act based on science, move our global workforce to renewable energy, and respect our planet for the unique and amazing place it is. That way we all have a future.”
Crowe is not the only person to suggest a correlation between the extremity of bushfires this season and climate change.
American politician Bernie Sanders confidently asserted in a Tweet that climate change is to blame for the terrible state of Australia currently:
Certain celebrities are renowned for their public involvement in combating climate change. American actor Leonardo DiCaprio makes no secret of his environmental activism. He recently posted the following on Instagram:
This is especially where celebrity hypocrisy is highlighted. Since they often live such lavish lifestyles, with private jets and multiple expensive cars, people in the public eye are heavily criticised when it comes to climate change.
Whilst DiCaprio is very much dedicated to the fight against climate change and a consistent activist, celebrities are often called out for their somewhat flaky attempts to raise awareness, often contradicted by their unsustainable behaviour.
Can celebrities really comment on sustainability when they live so extravagantly? Does the person posting their thoughts and prayers for Australia have any idea of their possible contribution to the destruction of the planet?
Ultimately, it is impossible to speak for all celebrities as one, demonstrated by the varying response to the disaster in Australia. But the ongoing conflict between a celebrities internal sense of responsibility and their external desire to improve their reputation makes it difficult to know their true intentions.
On a more optimistic note, individuals in the public eye have undoubtedly increased the discourse around the tragic situation in Australia by utilising their social media profiles. Hopefully, this has significantly increased donations.
So how can celebrities respond to the Australian bushfires without being hypocritical? Check that their morals are consistent, complete their research into the potential cause of this living hell in Australia and be conscious of the messages they are sending out.
Image courtesy of iStockPhoto.com.