Lewis Hamilton has come under fire for his Instagram post which talked of the problems facing humanity and which ended with the Formula One world champion expressing his sadness that matters are being ignored by so many.
“Honestly, I feel like giving up on everything. Why bother when the world is such a mess and people don’t seem to care?” he said.
Whilst the need for us all to change our habits is becoming apparent as awareness of the environmental issues that the planet faces increases, how we go about this is quite another matter. It is easy to be “green” until it really does affect us on a personal level.
Martin Samuel, Chief Sports Writer for the Daily Mail was less than impressed with Hamilton’s position. You can’t be “part of an industry that measures its carbon footprint much like a small country, and pontificate about a lunch-hour chicken sandwich as if its the root of society’s ills,” he said.
It isn’t about beef versus beetroot
“Hamilton has a choice, and it isn’t about beef versus beetroot,” said Samuel. “If he announced this season was it, and he was ending his participation in motorsport with its reckless consumption and pollution of the planet’s resources, that would be a very admirable stand.
“If he said he would travel the world by bicycle, planting trees to offset his carbon footprint to this point, he could get Greta Thunberg levels of approval. Yet turning vegan and hectoring the world to follow? This is not the moment to ascend to the moral high ground. It never is in an F1 car” says Samuel.
To that extent however much Hamilton may care about the world in which we live, it does not give him the right to lecture others on how to live.
On the question of Hamilton’s diet, this is a largely irrelevant according to Samuel. There are plenty of good athletes who perform at a high elite level whilst being vegan. That does not necessarily give the sportsman the right to lecture others.
The former two time Formula One world champion, Fernando Alonso was not impressed either. ‘I think I would keep my eating habits to myself,’ Alonso told Cope, the Spanish radio station.
“I would never release a message like Lewis. You can’t send out a message on one day, and on the next day do the opposite. We all know the lifestyle that Lewis has, and that Formula 1 drivers take 200 planes a year. You can’t then say ‘don’t eat meat’ ” said Alonso.
But is Hamilton lecturing hypocritically? Or is he merely trying to communicate and be part of a difficult conversation?
Do we need Formula One’s carbon footprint?
Let’s face it Formula One in itself is an enormous luxury. Do we really need Formula One? Do we really need ten Formula One teams carrying between 50 and 100 tons of racing cars to twenty-one races a year? Do we need to burn over 5 million gallons of fuel for a few motor races?
It’s so easy to just cry “hypocrite” against one individual.
The more difficult choice would be on a global level for the world to decide that it could not afford the Formula One carbon footprint for environmental reasons. If so fine, then let’s bring it to an end.
This kind of abrupt change is, of course, hard to imagine. But until the system makes some shifts, all that an individual can do is take small steps and they do make a difference. Hamilton can sell his private jet, ban plastic bottles from his entourage and move forward to becoming carbon neutral by the end of the year, which is his avowed intention.
Hamilton “deserves our applause”
The Sun certainly thinks Hamilton should be applauded. In an interview with Sun journalist, Ben Hunt ahead of the Mexico Grand Prix, he talked of what had prompted his outburst, and more to the point what he was doing in his personal capacity to be more environmentally conscious.
“I’m constantly making changes but it’s not a quick fix,” said Hamilton. “But I feel positive that I’m making those changes and I’m encouraging people around me”.
He is also working on a plan with Mercedes to replace all leather interiors. “You could easily use faux leather and faux suede and nobody would know the difference — and that would make a big, big difference to the world” he said.
Hamilton also points to his collaborative work with fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger. His latest collection uses just under 70% sustainable or recycled materials. Hamilton is pushing to make the range 100% sustainable in the future.
One viewpoint is to support, not ridicule, such messages and Hamilton’s communication to his 13 million followers.
Speaking to ESPN Hamilton acknowledged that “it’s a very, very conflicting message at the moment and it’s really difficult”.
“There’s so much talk in all the different governments around the world and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of solutions, or they don’t seem to be coming up with a lot of solutions, so it definitely is a bit worrying but there’s not a lot that we can do individually except for just try to be better within our own bubble. And if you have a platform, try to project some positivity.”
It is indeed refreshing to see a sportsman who is not just trained to be a robotic media personality. Hamilton is trying to make a difference. If we all have to be environmentally perfect to enter into dialogue about ecological issues then the world has big problems.