| By Elainie Barraza
As people who lack the resources many celebrities have, it is difficult to understand why those who do wouldn’t donate a part of their wealth to aid our planet. This is especially questionable with recent horrific occurrences such as the Amazon and Australia wildfires, which were both at their peak in late August through September. How much money was donated to these tragedies thus far is unclear, however which celebrity has or hasn’t contributed is slightly more transparent.
In an Instagram post on August 25, 2019, widely known actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio announced that Earth Alliance, an organization dedicated to the environment in which he co-chairs, was pledging $5 million to help reduce the wildfires in the Amazon rainforest via an emergency Amazon Forest Fund. DiCaprio also asked his followers to donate to the fund, promising that 100% of the proceeds will go towards the rainforest. Back in 1998, DiCaprio founded The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), which “implements solutions to help restore balance to threatened ecosystems”. In September 2018, LDF celebrated surpassing $100 million in grant making.
Through the Ellen DeGeneres Fund, which was founded in 2018, DeGeneres has been able to use her platform to help protect wildlife, specifically mountain gorillas. In 2020, on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, she announced that she had created a GoFundMe campaign set to a goal of $5 million for relief efforts in Australia. As of January 27, $1.7 million has been raised, with a $100,000 donation from Shutterfly and $250,000 from United Airlines. In a 2011 interview, the comedian said, “if we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that…I definitely want to contribute to that.”
Differing, the Kardashian/Jenner family faced backlash for not “publicizing” their donation. Kim Kardashian took to Twitter to respond to a since-deleted tweet that called out her family on the subject. Other users tweeted about how although the family claimed to have donated to the cause, it was odd for them not to post on social media about their alleged contribution because they post about everything else. Khloe Kardashian then tweeted “good deeds should be done with intention and not for attention. We are all blessed to be able to bless others even if it is in the slightest way. But we do not need to be boastful about that. Be boastful in regards to teaching others how they may be able to help as well”. Kardashian’s sister Kylie Jenner also took to social media to post on her Instagram story about how the death of so many animals “breaks her heart”, however this post was followed by a photo of her Louis Vuitton slippers that are made out of mink. After facing massive criticism, Jenner then allegedly donated $1 million to the wildfires, with $200,000 going to Queensland firefighters.
Similarly, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has been facing media attention for his donation. Bezos claimed that his company pledged 1 million Australian dollars ($690,000) to relief efforts. It’s easy to understand why this would be controversial considering the Bezos net worth is $116.7 billion, and according to 2019 Business Insider analysis was earning $9 million an hour. There is a large gap between Bezos donation and his net worth and a lot of people are upset his donation was even less than Kylie Jenner’s, resulting in Bezos being called cheap.
Uniquely, Instagram model Kaylen Ward picked up any slack for celebrities who simply weren’t doing enough. She was charging $10, with a receipt as verification of the donation, in exchange of nude photos of herself. In an interview, Ward said when she counted the receipts at the end of her first day she had encouraged the donation of about $5,000 to charities focused on relief efforts in Australia. Instagram eventually deleted her accounts due to alleged guideline violations, but before so the model had raised $500,000 for wildfire relief efforts.
It is difficult to say which celebrities have or have not donated to either the Amazon rainforest or the Australia wildfires, however it is agreeable that bringing attention to the cause with their influence is equally as important whether they have donated to the cause or not. Celebrities have followings and monetary advantages regular people do not, and should use their power influence to bring attention to tragedies like these so their followers are aware and can help in any way that they can too. You can learn more about celebrity environmentalists in this previous blog. You can also make a difference and donate to the causes by contributing to popular charities such as Amazon Watch or the Australia Wildfire Fund.
ABC News. “Ellen DeGeneres Please for Help for Australia, Starts Relief Fund.” WCIV, WCIV, 7 Jan. 2020, abcnews4.com/news/nation-world/ellen-degeneres-please-for-help-for-australia-starts-relief-fund.
Bellware, Kim. “A Model Raised $500,000 for Australia Wildfire Relief by Sending Nude Photos to Donors, She Says.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 6 Jan. 2020, www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/01/06/model-raised-australia-wildfire-relief-by-sending-nude-photos-donors-she-says/.
Bromwich, Jonah Engel. “Donate $10 to Australia, Get a Nude Photo.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Jan. 2020, www.nytimes.com/2020/01/07/style/kaylen-ward-donations-australia-fires.html.
“Celebrities Call for Action against Raging Amazon Fires.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, www.cbsnews.com/news/amazon-fires-celebrities-call-for-action-madonna-emmanuel-macro-leonardo-dicaprio-brazil/.
Song, Sandra. “Kim Kardashian Responds to Australian Fire Donation Criticism.” PAPER, PAPER, 7 Jan. 2020, www.papermag.com/kim-kardashian-australian-fires-response-2644311483.html?rebelltitem=9#rebelltitem9.
Taylor, Chloe. “Leonardo DiCaprio-Backed Charity Pledges $5 Million to Reduce Amazon Rainforest Fires; G-7 Joins In.” CNBC, CNBC, 26 Aug. 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/08/26/leonardo-dicaprio-pledges-5-million-to-reduce-amazon-rainforest-fires.html.
The Ellen Fund (Ellen DeGeneres). (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2020, from “The Ellen Fund (Ellen DeGeneres).” The Ellen Fund (Ellen DeGeneres), theellenfund.org/.
O’Kane, Caitlin. “Kylie Jenner Donates $1 Million to Help Fight Australia Wildfires.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 9 Jan. 2020, www.cbsnews.com/news/australia-fires-kylie-jenner-donates-1-million-to-help-fight-australia-brushfire-instagram-kardashians-celebrites/.
Agius, Kym. “’Are You Sure It’s for Us?’: Shock Response after Kylie Jenner Donates $200,000 to Queensland Firies.” ABC News, 9 Jan. 2020, www.abc.net.au/news/2020-01-09/kylie-jenner-donates-bushfires-queensland-australia-1-million/11854258.
Taylor, Chloe. “Jeff Bezos Says Amazon Is Donating $690,000 to Australian Bush Fire Efforts.” CNBC, CNBC, 14 Jan. 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/01/13/jeff-bezos-criticized-for-amazons-690000-australian-fires-donation.html.