The power of O

When it comes to climate change, could Oprah be the next Al Gore?

By Catherine Price

Published July 3, 2007 2:05PM (EDT)

If you had to choose a celebrity to educate the world about climate change, who would it be? According to Reuters, Al Gore topped a recent 47-nation poll of 26,000 Internet users (he got 18 percent of the votes). Gore was followed by Kofi Annan at 15 percent and Oprah Winfrey at 14 percent. (I believe these results were for American users, though the article does not make this entirely clear.) A third of voters said that no one on the list was qualified -- which is refreshing when you consider that other choices included Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Beckham, Sting and Bono.

Granted, this was a rather silly poll, run by the Nielsen Company "to highlight links between celebrities and the environment before Live Earth pop concerts on Saturday," said Reuters. But that doesn't mean we can't pick favorites. Since Al Gore is already campaigning against climate change and Kofi Annan had his fair share of international politics in the U.N., I'm going to skip right past them and devote this post to Oprah, who tied with Bill Clinton and slightly beat out Nelson Mandela.

I'll admit that I have a soft spot for Oprah. I've never watched too much of her show, but in a world of women's magazines filled with nothing but sex and makeup tips and celebrity gossip, O Magazine stands out for its intelligence and good writing. Yes, it can be embarrassing to carry around a magazine that has a picture on the cover of Oprah popping out of a swimming pool under the caption "How To Dive Happily Into Life." But when push comes to shove, I don't care. I love it. And I know that whether Oprah's talking about good books, suicide prevention or girls in South Africa, people listen. The woman has power.

It's worth pointing out that she's actually already gotten involved in the issue of climate change -- in 2005, she had Leonardo DiCaprio and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer on her show to discuss the subject, according to Grist, and won accolades from environmental sites like Tree Hugger. So I'm hoping that as public awareness grows about climate change, she does more about it -- and I'm going to do my small, small part, to try to encourage her to pick up the cause. Perhaps I only speak for myself, but when it comes to listening to celebrities talk about global issues, I really need a break from Bono.

Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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