Sebastian Copeland is a photographer and environmental activist. Copeland grew up in France and Britain, and graduated from UCLA in 1987 with a major in film. Throughout the 1990’s, Copeland directed commercials – everything from soft drinks to sportswear – as well as music videos. He is also known for his celebrity portraiture; he’s taken pictures of Sandra Bullock, Kate Bosworth, and Orlando Bloom (who is also his cousin), among others. In recent years, Copeland has focused on environmental activism. He serves on the Board of Directors of Global Green USA and recently published Antarctica: The Global Warning
Question: What is a reasonable way to be environmentally conscious?
Copeland: I mean the reality is this is not something that will happen overnight. That’s obvious. You know it’s taken us hundreds of years to be conditioned into the behavior that we’re displaying today. And it will take us some time to change that attitude. And you know the real question is how much time, of course. But my personal behavior on this is . . . or my attitude is when I self-reflect and I examine what my daily footprint is, I just try to examine every day what I do and try to analyze how much of it impacts the world; or how much of it impacts the environment, that is, of course. And things can be as simple as understanding that energy . . . electricity typically is being generated from oil, or natural gas, or coal. And that in one function or another it is burning carbon into the atmosphere. So the generation of energy, whether it be for hot water for showers and baths; or whether it be for lighting rooms with electricity or whatnot, this is all generating carbon electricity. Look. There was a point in our time before electricity and before gas when we lit our environments with candles. And we lit candles when we needed them, but we did not let them burn during the day because ultimately, regardless of our wealth, somebody still had to go and either make a candle or purchase a candle, and it was a headache. So . . . And there was especially no point in burning candles during the day, or burning candles in rooms that were not being used. So this concept is the same today. In other words, electricity is still a candle. It still burns energy. The difference is the convenience of flipping a switch is such that with paying a premium on electricity and actually not seeing that, we never have to go back and replenish the, you know . . . the grid; replenish the power station or whatnot. So we’re not actually seeing it, but it’s the same level of accountability and the same level of logic. For me to be living in a large environment where the heat is on everywhere at the same time; and the air conditions is on everywhere the same time; and the lights are on; and letting water run excessively; and taking excessively long showers and hot baths and whatnot, those are places that you can already start a process of self-reflection. And I’ll tell you something. You start with examining that. And if you start . . . if you decide to change one thing in your daily activity; if you start to be conscious of one activity that you have that may pertain to some of what I just said, you will invariably begin a process of examination on . . . as to how you can impact a second, and then a third, and then a fourth. And then before you know it you start to think literally okay. Every time I go to the store, why rely on plastic bags when plastic bags are completely disposable in our societies and it makes absolutely no sense? Because again if we had to, as was the case in prior times . . . If we had to make those bags, we wouldn’t be throwing them every time. So we’d have to make another one. It’s only because somebody else is making those bags that somehow we find them to be disposable, but they’re not. So if you start to think in terms of that again, and start to think in terms of using renewable, you know, containers for drinking and whatnot; and you start to apply that thinking to everything that you do, then before you know it you become an example to yourself, and to your family, and ultimately perhaps to you peers, and to your community. And ultimately you become an advocate of your own survival.
Recorded on: 12/3/07