What Kylie Jenner’s private jets say about us
I just turned 24. This is an ideal age to start determining your priorities: Where do I want to put down roots? Do I want children? And above all, will there be a world for these children?
I try not to dwell on my climate anxiety because the more I think about it, the bleaker the future looks. A glimpse into other people’s lives as they unfold on social media provides a sonic distraction from the world burning around me and the helplessness I feel. And while I don’t consider myself influenced by the life of an influencer or social media celebrity, I feel the need to keep my finger on the pulse of pop culture.
So when Kylie Jenner made a now infamous Instagram post featuring herself and her partner Travis Scott, I was immediately interested because it contained so much of what is seductive in pop culture: it is both mundane and extraordinary in its documentation of everyday life. For Jenner, it was just an ordinary Friday.
The post, a black and white photo of Jenner and Scott kissing on the tarmac between two planes, included the caption: “Do you want to take mine or yours?” The couple were boarding a 12-minute flight from Van Nuys, a Los Angeles neighborhood, to Camarillo, a town in Ventura County, California. They traveled about 59 kilometers, which would have taken them less than an hour on the road.
The July 15 post now has over 8 million likes on Instagram. Online criticism of his theft continues to spill out on Twitter. Comments range from calling her a “full-time climate criminal” to “Why is this still legal?” »
In 2019, at the age of 23, Jenner was recognized as the youngest self-made billionaire in the world. She amassed her wealth through her family’s hit reality show, keeping up with the Kardashians, and her beauty and cosmetics empire, Kylie Cosmetics. The controversial around his short flight out of LA brought to light similar short flights flown by celebrities like Floyd Mayweather, Drake, Mark Wahlberg, Elon Musk, Kim Kardashian and many more. More recently, Taylor Swift was called in for the charter 170 flights just this year.
The average person living in North America produces something over 13 tons of CO2 per year. But a single private jet produces around 1.81 tonnes of CO2 emissions in an hour.
In case you were wondering, all air travel accounts for 2.5% of total global emissions. And as polluting as most air travel is, private jets are particularly brutal – producing five to 14 times more emissions than commercial planes per passenger and collectively about 30 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year – more than Denmark’s annual emissions.
So it’s no news that as carbon emissions and greenhouse gases soar, the scales of climate conservation hope are tilted against us.
We are on the edge.
In fact, according to David Hunter, professor of environmental law and policy at American University’s Washington College of Law.
Which means we have to ask ourselves some very basic questions about how to reinvent our vision of the good life. Let’s assume that excludes not only private jets, but most commercial air travel as well.
“We need a fair, just and complete transition to fossil-free energy sources as soon as possible,” Hunter told The Tyee. “I think we’re getting to the point where we’re going to have to start talking about new technologies or massive ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.”
According to some estimates, the fossil fuels burned by the global business and travel industry account for one-fifth (about 24%) of world energy consumption and emissions. So what would big cuts look like in this sector?
Well, we may have glimpsed the future, and it wasn’t so bad. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 saw a drastic reduction in mobility, including travel by road, air, sea and rail, which accounts for around 57% of global oil demand, according to the International Energy Agency. Then, spurred by advertising campaigns touting globe-trotting vacations, emission levels rebounded in six percent last year, and 2022 has seen show business across the world rise with a vengeance.
So the question for you and me is this. Can we resist the lure of everyone having our own little celebrity life moments, so relentlessly molded by Kylie Jenner and her ilk?
Why we can’t let celebrities off the hook
Katherine White, a professor at the University of British Columbia and an expert in consumer insights, prosocial consumption and sustainability, describes what we’re up against.
“One of the ways we infer what the social norm is is if we look at other people’s behaviors,” White told The Tyee. “If we see a lot of people engaging in a behavior, we’ll often infer that it’s kind of the norm, that it’s appropriate, and that it’s the right thing to do in that context.”
A deep dive into Kylie Jenner’s theft also brought to light some repeat offenders and a deluge of internet comments surprisingly defending these extravagant and unnecessary carbon emissions by celebrities. Which made me wonder if fans of these celebrities are so enthralled with their star power that they can’t calculate the long-term ecological consequences of their actions on the planet we all call home.
Where is the revolution when the poor do not see the problem of their station and how excess at the top impacts their daily lives? We often see this juxtaposition play out in my own backyard, Vancouver, one of the most expensive cities in the world. A one-bedroom apartment can sell for $1 million, but many people my age struggle to afford the monthly rent for an apartment in town, even with a full-time job.
When celebrities like Kim Kardashian make statements like “no one wants to work these days” as she sits in her Calabasas mansion bought with the wealth gifted to her through nepotism, there’s a lot to consider. on what kind of influence celebrities like her wield and if they even should.
“And so, if you were a person who follows a group of celebrities [on social media]and they’re living these celebrity lifestyles, and they’re doing very luxurious, carbon-intensive behaviors, the social norm could be seen as “okay, that’s what everybody does” and that’s is totally appropriate,” White tells me.
“Jet tuning could spur more air travel,” White adds. “Maybe that’s not the most sustainable option.”
Biggest takeaway: While it might seem like harmless fun to live vicariously through jet-setting celebrities, they’re called influencers for a reason. Perhaps part of any real climate change agenda involves seriously altering our media regime.
A drop in the ocean
Of course, other celebrities send a different, more useful message, even as they live their plus-size lives while soaking up a lot of attention on social media. In early 2022, actor Ryan Reynolds and his partner Blake Lively made a $500,000 contribution to Water First Education and Training, a charity in Ontario that tackles water issues in Indigenous communities. Others, like actress Jane Fonda, have been active advocates and participated in civil disobedience for climate action.
But individual actions like these are just a drop in the ocean if they are not complemented by strong legislative reforms and policies. Domestically, Canada hopes to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and has implemented a carbon tax through a federal carbon pricing system that will rise sharply from its current level of $50 per tonne of carbon. emissions to $170 by 2030 to push consumers towards cleaner products. sources of energy. The federal government is also encouraging the switch to electric automobiles with purchase incentives of up to $5,000.
“I have some hope. It is this combination of a signal sent by countries through the Paris Agreement that carbon is dead as the future and innovation is humanity,” David Hunter told me. “And there’s a certain beauty in decentralized solar and decentralized wind that can be totally valuable for social equity purposes.”
Broader discussions of climate change and carbon emissions must also shift from a country perspective to a per capita perspective that takes into account disproportionate inequalities in consumption levels. Especially considering that the global average of CO2 emissions per capita is 4.4 tons.
First-world countries like Canada, the United States, and Europe need to look inward, especially since they are home to some of the biggest contributors to emissions on an individual and industrial scale.
Investing in clean energy and encouraging the redistribution of excess wealth to research and development of clean technologies for jet aircraft and industries will be key to ensuring there is a world to leave for the next generation.
As for me, Kylie Jenner and her ilk will serve as a constant reminder that the rich can have their cake and eat it too and there’s nothing ambitious about their lifestyle.
Not only because they can buy a one-way ticket to Elon Musk’s space colony after wreaking havoc on our planet’s ecosystem, but also because their lack of accountability is validated by the realization that they have the means to insulate themselves from the harshest impacts of the climate. change. Investing in infrastructure that can withstand extreme heat and cold and migrating to places with hospitable climates are easy solutions in their world. For millions more, these will be the defining issues of their lives.
I also realize that existing power structures and economic systems not only support the wealthy, but allow them to walk on the backs of the less fortunate – even and especially if their lives look good in photoshopped and curated Instagram posts.
In an economy that is gentrifying neighborhoods and pushing young people unable to afford million-dollar homes to the outskirts of bustling cities, home ownership is an unattainable dream for many in their 20s and 30s. . The same goes for having your own family and children. Because what kind of world do we leave them?