I am not one who follows or celebrates celebrity culture. In fact, I tend to be dismissive of how much celebrities use their influence (or “brand”) to sell products and push ideas to the rest of us. After all, these are still imperfect human beings just like the rest of us, yet their specific talents (and/or powerful connections) have lifted them above the vast pool of humanity, where they enjoy much more power, influence, and money from their success. They can afford to pay mighty sums to perfect their public appearances and somehow fend off bad repercussions from their wrongdoing.
The redeeming question is often, can celebrities use their platform and popularity to inspire and better our world and society?
Maybe they can.
The 77th Golden Globe Awards were held just after the New Year in Hollywood, and over a thousand celebrities were in attendance for the ceremony, which included a pre-show dinner. For the first time ever, the feast was completely plant-based, a decision made by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) out of concerns about climate change. Additionally, the awards show has taken steps toward sustainability by eliminating single-use plastic and water bottles.
“If there’s a way we can, not change the world, but save the planet, maybe we can get the Golden Globes to send a signal and draw attention to the issue about climate change,” HFPA president Lorenzo Soria said. “The food we eat, the way we grow the food we eat, the way we dispose of the food is one of the large contributors to the climate crisis. The climate crisis is impossible to ignore, and after speaking with our peers, and friends in the community, we felt challenged to do better.”
Actor Joaquin Phoenix, who took home the award for best actor for a motion picture drama for his role in the “Joker,” thanked the HFPA for making sustainable choices during his emotionally-charged, brutally honest acceptance speech. He also commented that “by acknowledging animal agriculture’s role in the degradation of our planet and boldly taking measures to do its part to reduce harm, the HFPA has shown great leadership.” Joaquin acknowledged that while many celebrities are sending well wishes to Australia due to unprecedented and utterly disastrous wildfires, “We have to do more than that.”
Joaquin resolutely expressed his wishes for Hollywood to unify and take responsibility in “making changes and sacrifices in our own lives.” This includes more than being conscientious about food choices, it’s about changing the extravagant lifestyles associated with celebrities, to be more thoughtful about their carbon footprints when it comes to travelling and material consumption. He concluded, “I’ll try to do better, and I hope you will too.”
As it turns out, lots of regular, non-celebrity Americans are trying to do better too. Vegan options are slowly becoming more common and mainstream. Even traditionally “unhealthy” fast food restaurants are starting to offer meat substitutes to appease conscientious consumers. The Economist reported that 25% of 25 to 34 year-old Americans say they are vegan or vegetarian. With technological advances in global food production, there are more creative plant-based meal alternatives than ever before.
The plant-based dinner served at this year’s Golden Globe Awards sounds so deliciously inspired it could make even the most devoted meat-lover drool: a first course of golden beet soup followed by a main course of king oyster mushrooms cooked and presented to mimic scallops, on top of wild-mushroom risotto and colorful roasted veggies.
When you consider all the tasty and satisfying options available, reducing our reliance on animal products really doesn’t seem too difficult. Meatless meals are based around proteins from beans, lentils, vegetables, and whole grains, which tend to be less expensive and offer more health benefits than meat. But it doesn’t have to be all or nothing: the lower your meat consumption, the lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. So switching from red meat to poultry is a good move. Switching from poultry to fish and seafood is a better move. Going vegetarian is still a positive move, even if you can’t do entirely vegan plant-based eating. In fact, there’s a new term – flexitarian – that describes someone who eats mostly plant-based, but occasionally eats meat, poultry, and/or fish.
However, there always seems to be a backlash against any movement away from traditional meat-centric meals. Reading comments from many cynical folks online makes me wonder: why do some people seem so personally insulted by lifestyle choices that reduce meat consumption?
National Geographic recently reported that an international commission of experts have analyzed the planet’s food productivity vs. growing population trends and have come up with scientific targets for a “nutritionally sound and sustainably produced planet-wide diet.” They propose the only way to feed 10 billion humans by the year 2050 would mean that our global consumption of foods like fruit and nuts needs to double, while cutting our appetite for red meat and sugar in half. The diet of our future successors will need to be about 90% plant-based in order to be sustainable. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you consider how many societies on Earth currently enjoy cuisine that revolves around meat. The meat industry also holds a lot of power in the economy and on Capitol Hill, and meat is typically subsidized by the government to make it cheaper for the masses.
The bottom line is that we should aim to be more thoughtful about our food consumption. To ensure a healthy planet and future for our grandchildren, we need to consider our indoctrinated consumption habits, and begin to reshape them. The plant-based dinner fed to celebrities at the 2020 Golden Globes demonstrates that it can be possible, sustainable, and satisfying as well.
Did you know? A person who is vegan will save 1,100 gallons of water, 20 pounds CO2 equivalent, 30 square feet of forested land, 45 pounds of grain, and one sentient animal’s life every day.
-Brittney Coleman, Environmental Educator