To paraphrase “Wall Street’s” Gordon Gekko, “green is good,” at least in showbiz circles, and we’re not talking printed money — that’s a whole other ball of recylable wax. Environmental issues like global warming, fuel efficiency, biodiversity, sustainable living, even organic food products have become paramount issues in the minds of many conscientious citizens, not to mention celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and producer Laurie David (“An Inconvenient Truth).”
David, though, along with a few other prominent females, are doing a bit more than arriving at the red carpet in a Prius, or sporting shoes fashioned from hemp.
Singer Sheryl Crow, along with David, barnstormed across the country, “Thelma and Louise” style, as part of the Stop Global Warming College Tour, which culminated in Washington, D.C., on April 22, Earth Day. The aim was to raise consciousness about climate change. David also spearheaded a 500,000-person “virtual march” on D.C., and wrote a book, “Stop Global Warming: The Solution Is You!”
Like David and Al Gore, Melissa Etheridge was a hit at the Oscars, where her theme for “An Inconvenient Truth,” “I Need to Wake Up,” won for original song. She remains hopeful in the face of Earth’s manifold perils: “More and more people are standing up,” she says. “We’re not red and blue anymore, we’re all green.”
As the daughter of a wealthy businessman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus grew up on Manhattan’s upper East Side, attended good schools and has become one of TV’s most notable Emmy-winning comedic actresses. But as a young girl, Louis-Dreyfus traveled with her physician father to live in Sri Lanka, Colombia and Tunisia, among other places. The suffering and hardship she observed had a lasting impact.
She worked for successful passage of Proposition O, which allocated $500 million for cleaning up the Los Angeles water supply. Louis-Dreyfus and husband Brad Hall have raised millions for Heal the Bay, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Trust for Public Land. “I’ve been cautious in my activism,” she says. “But one thing I’m wary about is putting myself out there as an expert. I can’t give you all the data on global warming. But it is a crisis.”
At 36, globe-trotting eco-journalist Simran Sethi has a resume deeper than most people twice her age. The telegenic Sethi produces news for the world’s largest green-lifestyle website, treehugger.com, and hosted Ethical Markets, a PBS program that focused on sustainable business practices. Celebs like Oprah and Martha Stewart have appeared on her syndicated program “The Ecozone Project” to help spread the word, and she’s co-host of Sundance Channel’s “The Green.”
“The dialogue has changed over the past two years,” she says. “The old paradigm was environmental awareness centered on land conservation. Now we’re seeing the relationship of gasoline to the war in Iraq to food safety to Katrina. Ninety percent of the fish stock has been depleted. I wouldn’t be optimistic about the future if I didn’t see the efforts of people from all walks of life working to make things better.”
Bonnie Raitt and her two brothers grew up in a Quaker household, which engenders a certain political consciousness about the way of the world. She’s one of the founding members of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) and is still on the green path with her Green Highway program and website, which she promotes at concerts to educate fans about alternative energy solutions.
“We have the opportunity for a great populist movement,” she says. “People are hungry for inspirational people. I feel a great responsibility toward the issues, like the importance of switching to solar energy. It’s important to give something back.”
Role models: Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen
Career mantra: “If you work hard, you can have what you want, and I think that’s what America is founded on.”
What’s next: More touring
Vocation: Singer, songwriter, environmental activist
Recent breakthrough: Oscar for best original song. “It’s not every day,” she says, “that you get 45 seconds to talk to a billion people.”
Role model: Bruce Springsteen
Career mantra: “The most important thing is to be truthful.”
What’s next?: A new album. “Awakening,” due out in September.
Vocation: “A storyteller who provides information that inspires people to act.”
Recent breakthrough: “Opening up new arenas where those stories can be told.”
Role models: Food justice activists Vandana Shiva in New Delhi, Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute and Judy Wicks of the White Dog Cafe in Philadelphia
Career mantra: “Ghandi’s edict: to first ‘be the change you wish to see in the world.'”
What’s next? “If I’m lucky, more of the same.”
Vocation: “Global warming activist”
Recent breakthrough: “…and the Oscar goes to… ‘An Inconvenient Truth'”
Role model: “Al Gore”
Career mantra: “You don’t have to do everything, but everybody has to do something.”
What’s next: “Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming” book (Scholastic)
Recent breakthrough: Breaking the “Seinfeld” curse with a new hit series.
Role models: Martin Luther King, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sasheen Littlefeather.
Career mantra: “It doesn’t matter.”
What’s next?: “Nothing. I’m doing exactly what I want to do.”
Vocation: Musician, activist
Recent breakthrough: “The discovery that there’s a woman behind the curtain.”
Role models: Bono, the Dixie Chicks, Angelina Jolie, Joan Baez.
Career mantra: “Every show is opening night.”
What next? “A break after six months on the road.”