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Rainn Wilson on Climate Activism, Disappointment Few Stars Are Joining

Rainn Wilson on Climate Activism, Disappointment Few Stars Are Joining

“I had literally been thinking to myself, Rainn, you need to get off your ass and do something about climate change. If this is really important to you, you need to do more than send out an occasional angry tweet, because, let’s face it, that’s what most people in Hollywood do.”

And so began Rainn Wilson‘s foray into environmental activism six years ago, when he met and teamed with professor Gail Whiteman for their Climate Basecamp initiative, which combines science and culture — approaching climate change via the lenses of food, entertainment, sports, fashion and music.

Wilson and Whiteman will take part in a panel discussing Climate Basecamp at the Environmental Media Association Impact Summit, taking place on June 4 and 5 in Los Angeles, alongside fellow speakers including Hillary Clinton, Phil Rosenthal, Ted Danson, Eli Roth, Issa López, Lance Bass and Ed Begley Jr. The annual event unites Hollywood environmentalists with a wide range of innovators, entrepreneurs, creatives and corporations to discuss bringing sustainability to the forefront.

Before co-founding Climate Basecamp with Wilson, Whiteman launched Arctic Basecamp, which united a team of Arctic experts and scientists who speak of Arctic risk and encourage bold climate action. After success with that organization, the two then wanted to focus on more of a pop culture approach to the message of climate change.

“Our target audience is what we call the moveable middle. There’s a whole realm of folks that don’t believe in the science of climate change and think it’s all a liberal conspiracy, so we’re never going to change their minds,” Wilson says, “and then there are people that are green, tree-hugging liberals that really believe in climate change science, that maybe they’re not doing a whole lot to help it but they’re behind it, and we don’t want to preach to the choir either. That’s what a lot of climate communication nonprofits do, is they just literally have a very limited audience.”

“So how do you reach a teenager in Nebraska that doesn’t know what to believe?” he continues. “And so you have to do it in interesting, unique ways. You can use comedy and visual storytelling.” Climate Basecamp’s most recent campaign was “Save the Flavors,” highlighting the fact that climate change is destroying foods like chocolate, cocoa, vanilla and pistachio, which are used to make the popular ice cream flavors.

Looking at Hollywood’s role in climate activism, Wilson points to three prongs: making production more green, increasing climate messaging in shows and movies, and more stars using their platforms to speak out about climate change.

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“I think that for all of the political right’s gnashing and thrashing around Hollywood celebrities and climate change and how Hollywood celebrities should just shut the fuck up and not have opinions, that’s bullshit,” he says, noting that everyone, regardless of their career or fame level, gets to have an opinion. “We may have a larger platform, and that’s great, but we really should be focusing our energies on talking about climate in unique ways that isn’t lecturing or talking down but is still filled with urgency.”

Wilson admits, “Frankly, I’m greatly disappointed in the fact that so few celebrities are speaking up about it because essentially they’re afraid of turning off a large portion of their fan base.”

The Office star said he knew he had to be vocal about the crisis after simply reading the science around it and recognizing that humans have just a few years to try to turn things around. “We can live in denial all we want, with our fingers in our ears going la la la la la, but we do want to make the world better for our children and our grandchildren and not leave it worse off,” he says. “This is the most important fight we can undertake in order to do that.”

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