Climate change is one of the most, if not the most, pressing issue of our times. We all know it. That’s why some celebrities are using their platforms to advocate for change now. Here are just a few.
For decades, Leonardo DiCaprio has been putting his money where his mouth is in regards to climate change. Seriously, he launched his eponymous foundation (now part of Earth Alliance), dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of the planet, back in 1998. The actor has also produced a number of environmental docs and has sat on boards for organizations like the World Wildlife Fund. He even used his 2016 Oscar speech to shine a spotlight on the issue. “Climate change is real,” he said. “It is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating.”
“I don’t want to look back and wonder what more I could have done to save our planet,” iconic star Jane Fonda wrote in the New York Times about her fight against climate change. The longtime activist has made headlines over the past few years for her (pre-pandemic) Fire Drill Friday protests on Capitol Hill, which have resulted in her (and some of her pals) getting arrested. Aside from regularly and publicly advocating for change, Fonda has also written a book, What Can I Do?, about her experiences on the frontlines, and has vowed to stop buying new clothes to reduce her personal carbon footprint.
Avengers star Mark Ruffalo is another longtime celebrity environmentalist. He founded Water Defense, which advocates for clean water, in 2010, and over the past few years has been very vocal about fracking — calling out politicians for not taking action to protect the environment. His activism translates on screen, too: In 2019, he starred in Dark Waters, a based-on-real-events drama in which he plays a lawyer who exposes the truth about a chemical company who contaminated a town with harmful substances for decades.
Big Little Lies star Shailene Woodley is no stranger to getting out on the frontlines in support of climate issues, and has even been arrested while protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. She’s also teamed up with Greenpeace, joining the organization on an expedition into the Sargasso Sea to help examine plastic pollution in our oceans, and has frequently shared some of her smaller, personal acts to living an eco-friendly lifestyle, like trying to eliminate single-use plastics from her day-to-day life.
Like his fellow Avengers co-star, Don Cheadle has also been vocal in the fight for climate justice. He’s a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s Environment programme and he works with the Solutions Project, an organization dedicated to clean energy and supporting women and people of colour doing leadership work in this area in their communities. “I hope to use my celebrity to motivate people and contribute to moving our global society back from the brink,” he told the UN. “I am surprised the environment is not at the top of the agenda. What is more important than food and clean air?”
Many members of the royal family have worked to increase awareness about the environment, which is work Prince Harry and Meghan Markle continue to do. They’ve frequently used public appearances to speak out about the issue; Prince Harry works on conservation with the NGO African Parks. He has even mentioned that the couple would only have a maximum of two children out of climate concerns, and recently helped launch WaterBear, a streaming service focused on content about conservation. “The moment you become a father, everything really does change. Then you start to realize, ‘Well, what is the point in bringing a new person into this world when they get to your age and it’s on fire?’” he said at the launch. “We can’t steal their future. We really can’t.”
Jaden Smith is appealing to his young fans – and their parents, too – to get them engaged in climate issues. “It’s amazing the youth have gotten so involved. And they have to stay involved,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation last year, discussing his own personal involvement in international climate protests. “But that bond [with parents] really matters. Eventually parents will see things have to change.” The 22-year-old participated alongside Al Gore in last year’s star-studded TED’s climate program, Countdown, and is also fighting for clean-water rights in communities like Flint, Michigan.
The K-pop superstars of Blackpink have recently started using their massive platform to speak out about climate change. They’ve repurposed their catchphrase “Blackpink in your area,” to a rallying cry, “Climate action in your area,” and have released videos discussing the importance of learning more and getting involved. They’ve also been named goodwill ambassadors for the UN’s climate change conference, which will take place in Scotland later this year, to continue raising awareness.
Indigenous activist Autumn Peltier may not be a Hollywood celebrity, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of Canada’s most prominent activists, with her advocacy being focused on the universal right for clean water. She was just eight years old when she started learning about the lack of access to clean water in Indigenous communities across Canada from her mom and aunt while growing up on Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island. In 2016, she met with Justin Trudeau, and she was named chief water commissioner for the Anishinabek Nation – an advocacy group for 40 First Nations across Ontario – taking over the role from her late great-aunt. The teen has also spoken at the United Nations General Assembly twice, saying: “I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: We can’t eat money or drink oil.”
At just 18 years old, Greta Thunberg may be one of the most famous climate change activist in the world. She’s become known for challenging governments around the world to do (much) more when it comes to protecting the environment, including in her native Sweden, where she started youth-led strikes in an attempt to make change. Soon, students around the world joined her in climate marches in their own countries. Like Peltier, she’s also addressed the UN in New York. “How dare you? I shouldn’t be up here,” she said. “I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for hope.”
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.