As I stroll the streets of New York City, I often have cause to question my own sanity as my eyes are drawn, inexorably, to the plethora of gossip magazines on sale in every kiosk andnewspaper shop: People, US Weekly, In Touch, Star, Celebrity Living (which is, apparently, dead), and others too trashy to name. To be sure, there are, ah, solid scientific reasons why this piffle should fascinate me: Cross-cultural research shows that nearly everyone allots between a fifth to two-thirds of their daily conversation to gossip and that the chatter may serve to identify aberrant behavior and bond individual members in a group. But do I really need to know that Britney Spears plans to renew her wedding vows to refute rumors of a marital rift; that the mysteriously concealed Baby Suri, offspring of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, may not actually exist; or that Brad has recently ordered Angelina to "play stay-at-home mom"?
Obviously not. Still, I clearly have an appetite for this drivel, and now there is a self-righteous way to satisfy it: I just log on to Ecorazzi,the cool green gossip site that tracks celebrities as they do their bit to protect the environment. In the space of 10 minutes sneaked from weightier tasks, I discovered that Jay-Z plans to team with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan to help provide clean drinking water to people in developing nations; that Barbra Streisand plans to donate $1 million to Bill Clinton's Climate Initiative, which is dedicated to fighting climate change in "practical and measurable ways"; and that Yao Ming, the 7-foot-6-inch basketball player for the Houston Rockets, has sworn off shark's fin soup "to bring about awareness of shark depletion and encourage conservation." (According to the conservation group Wild Aid, tens of millions of sharks are caught annually for fins and other body parts, and many mutilated sharks are tossed back into the ocean alive after their fins are sliced off.)
Ecorazzi includes its share of blather. (The fact that Orlando Bloom "had a massive go" at Kate Bosworth for dropping a cigarette butt at a green rock festival in Japan seems of little consequence—but then, who am I to talk? I'm reading this stuff.) However, the site also raises some important questions. A link to an article in USA Todayasks why Al Gore, who promotes a carbon-neutral lifestyle in his admirable movie An Inconvenient Truth," owns three (very) spacious homes, including a primary residence over 10,000 square feet with 20 rooms and 8 bathrooms" and also has stock in Occidental Petroleum*, which USA Today contends "has been mired in controversy over oil drilling in ecologically sensitive areas." Notwithstanding the film's important message (click here for my review), perhaps it is time that Al Gore made significant changes to his own lifestyle as an example to the rest of us. Or maybe he should just start reading Ecorazzi.
*Editor's Note:It has been pointed out to us that a number of assertions made in USA Today's August 10, 2006 article about Al Gore may be unfounded. In particular, according to a letter to USA Today published on August 16 from Kalee Kreider, Gore's communications director, Al Gore's father's stock in Occidental (Oxy) Petroleum was sold almost six years ago.
See also this article by David Roberts from Grist Magazine, which argues that changes in laws, regulations, tax codes, and business practices are of greater importance than criticism of one individual's choices.