Vanity Green

The super slick May Vanity Fair weighs in with its first ever "green issue" and it is a doozey in so many ways... maddening, actually. The weirdness starts with the odd cover combo of Julia Roberts, strangely standing over George Clooney, Al Gore, and Bobby Kennedy Junior, while wearing a green-leaved crown, a la the Romans.

There is much to rant and rave about in this issue. On the rant side, the super star-studded "Green Portfolio" of dozens and dozens of environmental heroes, with more movie stars than one can quickly count, is infuriating. Nothing against movie stars doing good deeds,sometimes it helps, but all these stars -- I counted at least eight (oh, and Bono's wife, and Paul Newman's daughter, also) in the end are just not essential to fighting for the globes survival. I know they do really care and work hard, but for them it is so much easier than for real environmental heroes who also think about poverty, lead in paint, Katrina's environmental devastation on the poor neighborhoods of New Orleans, and on and on, and not whether they are driving around in a Prius.

The VF editors appear to think the environmental movement in all its facets, has no grass roots, no problems with the enormous amount of corporate dumping of toxic waste in poor communities and environmental racism and classicism overall. Hey, it's not just about the trees, the gardens, surfing, and building costly solar powered homes. They concluded, perhaps because the notion never entered their minds, that there are no African-Americans and Latino-American environmental heroes (African Noble Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai is included). While there are some wonderful people mixed in, it is kind of preposterous to just celebrate a gaggle of multi-millionaires, six white male mayors, and Governors Pataki and Schwarzennegger as saviors of our environmental future.

I will confess to having a love-hate relationship with Vanity Fair and its editor Graydon Carter, who combines paeans to the very rich and very powerful, while producing some of the best journalism anywhere. (It helps that they tend to pay the most money for their articles.) And the journalism in this issue is first-rate, lead by a shocker of a piece by veteran progressive journalist Mark Hertsgaard: "Three Feet of Water," along with maps depicting the damage a rise of three feet of water will have -- a level that has pretty strong endorsement from many scientists. Hertsgaard explains how the rest of the world gets it, but by using media tactics like big tobacco used to deny the hazards of smoking, the Bush administration and big oil managed to get global warming -- a.k.a, climate disruption -- labeled a "liberal hoax." Michael Shnayerson writes about the "Rape of Appalachia," mind-boggling devastation in the search for coal, lorded over by corporate bad guy titan Don Blakenship, CEO Of Massey Energy. There's plenty more including an essay by the enviro superstar Al Gore, who is the subject of a much-lauded upcoming documentary...

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