Flashback: Cameron Diaz ‘lauds traditional tribal lifestyles, which lack running water, electricity’ on MTV Enviro Series

Celebs Ignore Death, Poverty on MTV Enviro Series

May 5, 2005

(CNSNews.com) – A new MTV series features Hollywood celebrities praising the developing world’s primitive lifestyles as earth-friendly — despite those poor nations’ high infant mortality rates and short life expectancies.

The eco-tourism show, called “Trippin’,” premiered on March 28 and was heavily promoted in the runup to Earth Day. The show encourages environmental awareness and lauds traditional tribal lifestyles, which lack running water, electricity and other basic infrastructure.

The MTV series features actress Cameron Diaz and a rotating crew of “her close, personal friends [who] think globally and act globally.” They tour developing nations, including Nepal, Bhutan, Tanzania, Honduras and visit remote villages in Chile.

Actress Drew Barrymore, who reportedly earns $15 million a film, told MTV viewers in one episode that after spending time in a primitive, electricity-free Chilean village, “I aspire to be like them more.”

Barrymore, apparently enthralled by the lack of a modern sanitary facilities, gleefully bragged, “I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal. It was awesome.”

The 32-year-old Diaz, who earns a reported $20-million a movie, boasted that the cow-dung slathered walls of a Nepalese village hut were “beautiful” and “inspiring,” and she called the primitive practice of “pounding mud” with sticks to construct a building foundation “the coolest thing.”

Diaz also criticized the lifestyles of many Americans after visiting an indigenous village in Chile. “It’s kinda gotten out of hand how much convenience we think we need,” she said.

Despite the celebrities’ praise for the primitive life, “Trippin'” shows them flying on multiple airplanes and chartering at least two helicopters and one boat to reach remote locations over the course of the first four episodes.

The series also showed the celebrities being chauffeured to the airport in a full-size Chevy SUV — despite several on-screen, anti-SUV factoids noting how environmentally unfriendly SUVs are.

Diaz, who starred in “Charlie’s Angel’s” and “There’s Something About Mary,” travels the world “in the name of the Mother Earth” with a host of different celebrities including Barrymore, actresses Eva Mendez and Jessica Alba, rapper Redman, and rocker Kid Rock.

Environmental groups such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council also are featured in the series, to provide commentary and analysis on environmental issues.

The first four episodes of the MTV series made scant mention of the difficult economic and social conditions of the countries visited. Bhutan, a country that received particular praise from Diaz for its environmental policies, has one of the highest infant mortality rates (103 infant deaths per 1,000 live births) and lowest life expectancies (54 years) in the world.

By comparison, the United States, which Diaz described as having too much “convenience,” has an infant mortality rate of only 6.6 per 1000 and an average life expectancy of more than 77 years.

Located between China and India in the Himalayan Mountains, Bhutan was profiled on the second episode of “Trippin’.” Diaz described it as the “only country in the world where forest cover is increasing.”

According to CIA estimates, Bhutan has one of the world’s smallest and least developed economies, with the country’s 2-million people surviving mostly on the crops they grow themselves.

“My favorite thing about Bhutan is they measure their country’s wealth, not based on dollar amount but on gross national happiness,” Diaz said.

Diaz was happy to learn that 72 percent of the country is still covered in forest. “That is so awesome. I like Bhutan,” Diaz said, noting that the country has “maintained a careful balance of Old World tradition and modern convenience.”

“Life moves at a different pace here in Bhutan,” she said. “The fusion of religion, tradition and a genuine respect for the environment give the whole country a peaceful balance.”

Actress Eva Mendez, who accompanied Diaz to Nepal and Bhutan, was inspired by the natural beauty of her surroundings: “Nature is so much fun,” she said.

‘Poo in the woods’

Throughout their travels, the celebrities revel in the fact that they are in the middle of “nowhere,” without running water, electricity, television, radio and the Internet.

When Barrymore (star of “E.T.” and “Charlie’s Angel’s,” to name a few of her films) bragged about defecating in the forest, Diaz responded she would like to have the same experience.

“I am so jealous right now, I am going — I am going to the woods tomorrow,” Diaz said. A clearly satisfied Barrymore laughed, repeating, “It was awesome.”

Diaz lauded the Nepalese villagers’ practice of slathering cow dung as a form of wall plaster used to coat the walls: “Nothing goes to waste. It is beautiful. It is inspiring,” she said. “It is incredible to see how in tune these people are with the environment; they are completely self-sufficient, Diaz added.

Daily routines of the local citizenry are featured on the series, including pounding mud with large sticks for hours — for the foundation of a new monastery in Bhutan.

“I am going to go pound some mud, baby! Mmm,” Diaz said to the cameras. “It was the coolest thing to be a part of,” she added.

As video of mud-pounding filled the TV screen, Diaz explained, “They (Nepalese villagers) continue to live in harmony with the world around them. It’s a way of living very different than what we are used to. It seems to work.”

But MTV viewers were not informed that Nepal has an infant mortality rate of nearly 69 deaths per 1,000 live births, about ten times the infant death rate in the U.S. Nor did they hear that life expectancy in Nepal is 59 years.

‘They teach me so much’

Bhutan was praised by Diaz because she claimed the residents voluntarily rejected electricity in order to save the “endangered black neck crane.”

“These people have decided that keeping the cranes in their valley is more important than having the convenience of electricity,” Diaz noted.

“It is admirable that they would give up that convenience, because if they were to build power lines here, the birds would lose their habitat here and disappear from the landscape of Bhutan, ending centuries of tradition,” she added.

Diaz was less enthusiastic about the modern American lifestyle: “It’s kinda gotten out of hand how much convenience we think we need,” Diaz said after visiting an indigenous Chilean village in the fourth episode.

Barrymore praised the Chileans living in a remote, electricity-free village as “people who are walking the walk and doing it [environmentalism]; they teach me so much.”

The Hollywood celebrities also took time out from sight-seeing to express concern about proposed development projects in the countries they were visiting. Projects ranging from a proposed highway in the Chilean forest to a proposed aluminum smelter were criticized because of their perceived negative environmental and societal impact.

Diaz offered an alternative to the proposed aluminum factory: “Each of us can make a difference. If everyone recycled the aluminum cans they used, there would be no need for new smelters,” Diaz told viewers.

“So stop being a f—ng (bleeped by MTV) pig and recycle your aluminum cans,” she added with a laugh.

Diaz also explained her opposition to the proposed highway: “They are going to replace something that is truly unique with something that is everywhere.”

‘Perverse and immoral’

A critic of the environmental movement condemned the new MTV series.

“There’s something perverse and immoral when multi-millionaire Hollywood celebrities head off on junkets in the jungle – and then preach to us lesser mortals about the joys of the simple life, and how we should protect the Earth, conserve energy, prevent global warming, and help the poorest people on our planet continue ‘enjoying’ their poverty, malnutrition and premature death,” Paul Dreissen, author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power/Black Deathtold Cybercast News Service.

“Life in these developing countries is still nasty, brutish and short. And that there is a reason our parents and grandparents worked so hard to create modern homes and hospitals and technologies, so they could leave behind the unsafe water, dung fires, pollution, rotted teeth, infant mortality and life expectancies half or ours,” said Driessen.

“This entire MTV series totally glosses over the hardships and premature death that is right before their eyes. Even mentioning these facts would obviously get in the way of their ideological message, and their determination to turn [MTV viewers] into little ventriloquist’s dummies for the sustainable development movement,” Driessen explained.

‘Love our planet all the time’

After her visit to Chile, Barrymore expressed guilt about not always adhering to earth-friendly practices.

“Like I leave the light on all the time in my house because I want to feel safe. I am so spoiled, I am — I am going to start conserving,” Barrymore insisted.

“It is just overwhelming how important it is to like, love our planet all the time and not take advantage of it,” Barrymore concluded.

In an effort to explain the celebrities’ use of pollution-generating planes and SUVs to get from one remote location to another, “Trippin'” features aprogram note at the end of each show, stating: “To reduce global warming, “Trippin'” offset all of the energy used to make this show by supporting renewable energy products.” According to the environmental publication Grist Magazine, the MTV series “purchased carbon credits to offset pollution,” which was generated as part of producing the series.

An MTV spokeswoman declined to provide a representative of “Trippin'” to comment on this article. Diaz’s publicist e-mailed Cybercast News Service, writing, “Sorry, she (Diaz) is not available at this time.” Barrymore’s publicist said the actress was also unavailable.

“Trippin'” airs Monday nights at 10:30 Eastern time.