By Anne T. Donahue
This week, we learned two incredible truths: Taylor Swift has downsized to one (1) private jet, and she has threatened to sue the college kid who tweets the whereabouts and frequency with which she uses her private jet.
Let’s start here: Swift’s legal team has issued a cease and desist claiming the real-time posting of where she’s flying to and when can exacerbate stalking. Fair! Which is why tweeter Jack Sweeney posts 24 hours after her flights. Also, the information he’s sharing is readily and publicly available, made possible by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). That’s how having a private jet works: trips are logged because planes just can’t take to the sky without telling anybody. (Right? I don’t have a private jet, but I can only assume based on how hectic the skies usually are.)
And it’s not like Sweeney is focusing solely on Taylor Swift – he posts the private jet trips by a slew of famous people, all of which are grossly contributing to the climate crisis as we sip on our flimsy, soggy paper straws.
Here’s the thing about private jets: they’re a disgrace. And what’s worse is that Taylor Swift, who recently flew somewhere 28 minutes away, isn’t even the biggest offender. Travis Scott, Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk, Jay Z and Beyonce, and Bill Gates round out the top five of a list consisting of the likes of Drake, Kylie Jenner, and even Quebec’s patron saint, Celine Dion. Private jets emit an estimate of roughly 573 000 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. And usually by the people whose cultural alters we worship at and who have the funds to do something constructive to combat climate change.
This is embarrassing. To start, it’s embarrassing not to care about our planet (that we all live on, thank you), and it’s embarrassing to think flying private is anything worth celebrating. I understand there’s an element of panache to posing on one’s own PJ and/or far and away from the common public, but in the immortal words of Kourtney K., Kim, there are people that are dying.
It’s February 2024, and I stood outside talking to my neighbour in a t-shirt and sweatpants today and I didn’t get cold. There’s no snow, and I got sunburned. Every day, we’re treated to fresh new environmental hells, all of which are only a tip on the (rapidly melting) iceberg. We’re also witnessing the slow demise of the middle class, an abundance of food insecurity, and an international housing crisis. To flaunt one’s wealth is already gauche and shameful. To flaunt one’s wealth via extreme carbon footprint while expecting us (normal people) to invest in one’s products? You’ve got to be kidding me.
I know Taylor Swift didn’t invent private jets, and I know she’s already on the receiving end of media heat after laying claim to everybody else’s flowers at the Grammys this Sunday. This isn’t an anti-Swift manifesto, but it is a means of questioning what we’ve accepted as normal. Why is zipping around via PJ something our beloved famouses don’t answer for? At what point do we ask them to take accountability for the long-term effects of those short-term flights? And are we still glamourizing this? Wealth and bold displays of it? I’m all for travel, but is the class divide so necessary that celebrities can’t physically fathom sharing a plane with the rest of us?
It’s an interesting time to be observing celebrity culture. We’ve long gleaned that stars are, not in fact, like us. Yet since the pandemic especially, we’ve started to scale back our adulation and have begun replacing it with concrete questions about why we’re fighting uphill battles celebrities seem to be completely disinterested in. I’m all for T-Swift catching Travis on the football field, but outside of the monetary cost (which is of no consequence to either of them), is it worth the cost to the only hospitable planet in our galaxy?
And furthermore, has no one else seen the storm scene in Almost Famous? There are much better places to hang than a small tin can in the sky.