The Hypocrisy of Celebrity Environmentalists

By | August 3, 2007

National Post  (Canada)

Readers of Hollywood news already know that Laurie David has filed for divorce from her husband, Larry David, the creator of Curb Your Enthusiasm and co-creator of Seinfeld. Mrs. David’s papers cited "irreconcilable differences" as the reason for the split. This past Sunday, the New York Post cast some light on the nature of those differences. Over the past year, neighbours have seen Mrs. David in a variety of amorous postures with a younger man, "her hottie but dumb building contractor," as one of those neighbours describes him.

OK, stop right there–this is the National Post, not the National Enquirer. Why would we reprint salacious allegations of middle-aged romance?

Well, actually, there is a serious political point to make here amidst the hanky-panky.

Remember Ted Haggard? The Colorado preacher who championed traditional marriage–and was then caught buying sex-enhancing drugs from a gay prostitute? You’ve also probably heard a great deal about David Vitter, the socially conservative U.S. Senator from Louisiana whose name showed up on a Washington, D.C. escort service’s client list? It seems almost an iron law: Sexual moralists get hoisted by their own petard.

But there is another form of hypocrisy, very nearly as ubiquitous, about which we hear much less–and that is the hypocrisy of the celebrity environmentalist.

Of all today’s fashionable causes, the environment is the very most fashionable of them all. And no Hollywood activist is more dedicated than Laurie David, who used her husband’s wealth to finance Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Gore lavishes praise on her work: "Laurie David has done more than any one person I know to raise awareness of the climate crisis."

Laurie David reviles SUV owners as "terrorist enablers." She has paid for television commercials demanding higher mileage standards for cars and trucks. She owns and operates the website StopGlobal-Warming.com.

Her message: "There’s something that we can all do about it." In her many media interviews, Laurie David details her own contributions to the cause: She uses only recycled paper products and she has made her two children take shorter showers.

Now back to our celebrity chitchat. Note again what Mrs. David’s new amour does for a living. He’s a builder, specifically the builder of Mrs. David’s new 25,000-square foot house on Martha’s Vineyard. That’s a bigger house even than her friend Al Gore’s. Gore’s Tennessee house uses 20 times as much energy as the national average. And he only owns one house–the Davids own two.

Fuel consumption for electricity production is the largest single source of carbon emissions in the United States.

You may wonder: How does a Los Angeles resident like Mrs. David travel between her west coast home and her new east coast summer place? Answer: She charters a Gulfstream jet. Environmental journalist Gregg Easterbrook calculates that a midsized Gulfstream G200 burns as much fuel on one transcontinental flight as a Hummer monster SUV consumes in an entire year. Easterbrook sourly comments: "But then, conservation is what other people should do."

Eric Alterman, a liberal journalist friendly with the Davids, has worried in print about the hypocrisy of Hollywood environmentalists. "The response," he writes, "has been not so much explanation or excuse as a plea for indulgence–as if one were, after all, dealing with children."

This seems to be Larry David’s own assessment of his domestic situation. Larry David contributed a comic introduction to his wife’s 2006 book, Stop Global Warming: The Solution is You.

"Thirteen years ago, I met a materialistic, narcissistic, superficial, bosomy woman from Long Island. She was the girl of my dreams ? Finally, I had met someone as shallow as me ? But then, after a few months, I began to sense that something had changed ? She was growing ? I, Larry David, the shallowest man in the world, had married an environmentalist."

But is it really true that environmentalism precludes materialism, narcissism and superficiality?

If environmentalism is to Democratic America what religious morality is to Republican states, there is at least one Laurie David for every Ted Haggard. The gossip site TMZ in October, 2006, compiled a short tally sheet: George Clooney drives an electric car that gets 135 miles to the gallon–and then hopped on a private jet to Tokyo, burning enough fuel in one flight to power his car back and forth across the Pacific 57 times. Julia Roberts, Jennifer Lopez, Brad Pitt: same story.

But maybe Larry David put it best. Asked by reporters for reaction to the divorce, he answered, "I went home and turned all the lights on."

David Frum is a resident fellow at AEI.