Sports Illustrated sends clueless supermodels to soon-to-be-inundated Maldives for a blissfully ignorant photo shoot

“We’re kind of channeling, like I said, that old ’70s, ’80s sort of really happy, sunny feeling.”

I apologize in advance for posting a video that some will see as objectifying women — a debate we’ve already had here (see “Supermodel: Why I Took It Off For Climate Change“).

But I think this is a shocking video that must be seen for how it objectifies the Maldives — using the vanishing islands in the Swimsuit Edition as a back drop whose beauty can be exploited and discarded by the priveleged super-rich whose blissfully ignorant comments are so unintentionally ironic that you’d almost think you were watching a video from The Onion:

The Maldives have an average elevation of four feet, which means it is exceedingly difficult to see how they can possibly survive the century, given humanity’s myopic refusal to dramatically reverse emissions trends (see “Sea levels may rise 3 times faster than IPCC estimated, could hit 6 feet by 2100“).  And that’s why their President said he would “try to find a new homeland for Maldivians somewhere else in the world, on higher ground” (see “Prudent planning: President of Maldives wants to move his island nation“).

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing a photo-shoot for the Swimsuit Edition on the Maldivies.  But what’s terribly wrong here is for Sports Illustrated to put on the web a video that makes clear its featured supermodels are blissfully unaware of what’s coming, like modern-day Marie Antoinettes and Madame de Pompadours:

Brooklyn Decker:  “We’re kind of channeling, like I said, that old ’70s, ’80s sort of really happy, sunny feeling.

Seriously.  You simply cannot go to the Maldives and do a photo shoot and make the theme this happy, sunny BS, like nothing is wrong.

Dominique Pielk:  “We got really spoiled on this trip.  We’re just rolling around in the sand, splashing around in the water.  It’s supposed to be fun.”

Spoiled indeed.  Apr¨s moi, le d©luge — though even that line presupposes the speaker has a clue what’s coming.

Christine Teigen:  “Everything is just beautiful.  Everything is taking its time here.  And it’s gorgeous.

You cannot make this stuff up.  “Everything is taking its time here”?!  The whole friggin’ place is going under, most of it likely by the end of the century.  Nothing is “taking its time” there!

Shame on Sports Illustrated for putting out this video, for putting such embarrassingly uninformed supermodels in front of the camera.  I suppose this shoot could have been an opportunity to educate their readers about the real-time catastrophe the islands face and who knows, perhaps the Swimsuit Edition will do that, but it’s hard to believe based on this video.

Related Posts:

Some sports are trying to educate the public about the threat of unrestricted greenhouse gas emissions:

27 Responses to Sports Illustrated sends clueless supermodels to soon-to-be-inundated Maldives for a blissfully ignorant photo shoot

  1. Prokaryote says:

    Beside sexism, chauvinism, cliches and patriarchish roles i don’t see a problem with this in regards to climate change – sea level rise.
    Even you could argue that soon those kind of photo shoots will be not possible anymore. I bet you find a lot of such shootings in climate threaten locations all aroudn the world. Like, see here this beautiful shooting, or movie scene – totaly devasted after the last storm, drought, flash flood insert disaster here _______ .

    [JR: The Maldives aren’t like just any location — they are ground zero. No major sports magazine could possibly go there and be clueless as to what’s to come.]

    A huge part of the public, consume such movies, or use it for model collections or even as an idol BMI. Maybe it would be more wise to ask those producer about his opinion on future predictions on climate change and the effected region where this photo shooting took place. Maybe they even supprot action to sustain those islands?

  2. Walt says:

    Here you go again,Joe,
    The Maldives are not in any danger, and I challenge you to provide any field-verified evidence to dispute this statement.



    [JR: Thank you for entirely justifying this post. “field-verified evidence”?? Sea level rise has accelerated in the past two decades — that is “field verified.” The great ice sheets are losing mass about a century faster than the models predicted — that is “field verified.” Most of the literature I link to in the post is based on field verified evidence, which in any case is such an ill-defined term as to be all but meaningless, if impressive sounding. Oh and the President of Maldives is planning to move his population — I’m guessing he knows something in the field you don’t.]

  3. Doug Bostrom says:

    “We’re kind of channeling, like I said, that old ’70s, ’80s sort of really happy, sunny feeling.”

    Sounds more like she’s channeling Sarah Palin.

    “The Maldives are not in any danger, and I challenge you to provide any field-verified evidence to dispute this statement.”

    Walt, there’s a spectrum of predictions regarding knock-on effects of climate change, some likely, some less so.

    Asking for “field verification” of the Maldives’ peril is basically saying, “Show me how diked portions of Holland will be submerged, if the dikes fail.” If you’re looking for a controversy, you’re going to need a more contentious example to mock.

  4. John McCormick says:

    Goes without saying…some of us monkeys should never have left the trees.

  5. 'lief says:

    Another sexist rant. Sexism against Palin every few days. Now this. Too bad the oceans aren’t rising.

    [JR: Seriously. Attacks on Palin’s inanity are sexist in the same way that attacks on Limbaugh’s inanity are weightist!]

  6. Prokaryote says:

    China sea levels reach record high
    In mid August last year, high temperatures hit most parts of southern China, causing the sea level in September to become about 180 mm higher than the previous year and pushing the oceanic temperature to 28.5 C, the second highest record in the past three decades, the report showed.

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    Broader Issue: Does Anyone Else Feel It?

    Aside from this particular situation of ladies talking about fun and timelessness while (apparently) being unaware of the problems, this reminds me of a thought I have more and more frequently, which is this:

    To use an example …

    When I was at a great concert, or a great sporting event, or a great something, in the early 1970s (just to pick a date), I could genuinely feel good about feeling good. I mean, not all was right in Denmark, so to speak, — humankind had problems then too –, but at that time, I felt that those problems were of the sort that we could work on and were working on. So, it was possible to have fun and genuinely be at least reasonably “happy” with humankind. At least at that time, we weren’t KNOWINGLY messing up the climate itself on a massive scale, playing ignorant about it, in denial, and arguing to ourselves that we need not care: future generations can just figure it out for themselves. Although humankind has never been entirely “innocent”, or even largely innocent, today we seem to be intent on taking our irresponsible knowing destructiveness to new heights.

    So, when I go to a big event today, it sometimes occurs to me that “hey, all 10,000 of us are having fun and laughing, even as we mess up the climate for future generations.” The fact that we are fiddling while Rome burns does not sit well with the idea of genuine happiness and genuine self-respect.

    In other words, we (society at large) seems to be very much like those ladies in the swimsuits in the Maldives. Actually, they are more “innocent” in the sense that they actually don’t seem to realize the problem. In contrast, society at large DOES realize the problem — or at least we’ve been told and warned about it plenty of times — and yet we are still splashing and playing around, purposefully oblivious to what we truly know we are doing. That’s not good for the psyche, I think.

    When one thinks about it, it is harder to have fun these days, or to feel good, or to feel genuine, knowing what we (humankind) at large are up to and not correcting.

    Does anyone else feel that way?

    Be Well,


  8. Doug Bostrom says:

    ‘lief says: February 3, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    “Another sexist rant. Sexism against Palin every few days. ”

    Palin’s incompetence is gender neutral. Have a male actor read her lines, the material will still be just as frighteningly funny.

    Sea level:

  9. Prokaryote says:

    Jeff, it depends how much your senses are skilled in terms of nature and change within.
    If i go outside i try not to breath toxics from automobile emission – it’s loud, dirty and hectic – a lot of stress, for everybody. But humans got used to it. You have to if you want to exist in todays western societys – it is part of the deal, you are born into it mostly.

    Beside this a-typical modern city traffic, there is more if you look for weather patterns, observe plants or birds for example. Everything changes. I don’t know why i feel this and others just don’t care, but maybe it is because i grew up in a very untouched natural environment.

    To me the current situation is just a pause before we get into really catastrophic scenarios. Than a lot will change. I wait for this moment since a few years now.
    And i belive this moment is almost there now ;)

    Is There an Ecological Unconscious?

  10. Doug Bostrom says:

    Jeff Huggins says: February 4, 2010 at 12:22 am

    “Does anyone else feel that way?”

    You mean, like I’m part of a gang of giggling teenagers, smashing up the planet? Having some irresponsible fun, but knowing better? Pretty sure even while I’m laughing, there will be an accounting? Dimly aware I’ll have to grow up but kind of resentful about that?

    A little humor helps to illustrate the point:

  11. Richard Brenne says:

    Just a guess, but this ‘lief (#5) probably isn’t our good friend Leif, one of Romm’s Minions All-Star Commenters. Although this ‘lief did hit for the cycle of incomprehensible comments.

    Jeff Huggins (#7), another perennial All-Star, that is probably the most heart-felt sentiment I’ve seen on this or any other climate blog, and I share your feelings (I express similar sentiments in an article on Eco-Psychology in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine). Our willful, wanton destruction of our habitat is by far history’s greatest crime.

    And ‘lief, if you believe in judgement, then how will we be judged for ruining our only habitat and fighting tooth and nail to promote ignorance so that our unrelenting greed and consumption and overpopulation can create die-off and a hellish existence for countless generations to come?

  12. Richard Brenne says:

    Joe writes: “I apologize in advance for posting a video that some will see as objectifying women — a debate we’ve already had here (see “Supermodel: Why I Took It Off For Climate Change“).”

    Speaking of Joe’s All-Stars, does anyone else miss Gail as much as I do? Gail’s comments were always smart and right-on, and she loves trees as much as anyone I’ve ever known, even in cyber-space.

    Anyway in that “Supermodel” video (above) flap she and Larry Gilman were like super-Ninjas taking on all other commenters and I think making excellent points. I can’t remember hearing from Gail since. Gail, if you’re out there, we need to hear from you again!

    And Joe, I think Gail and especially Larry with his links made the point that this video even much more clearly than the last objectifies women based on peer-reviewed science, so I think “objectifies women” could be said with about as much confidence as that the Maldives will sadly be no more, quite possibly in many of our lifetimes.

    One of my favorite writing partners for over a decade was Rick Reilly, the 12-time Sportswriter of the Year. As a writer it was like having Michael Jordan as your pick-up basketball partner. I tried for many years to get him to write about more substantial issues (as a sportswriter he’s about as good as it gets as a writer and writing about substantial issues). I’ll never give up because he’s such a good communicator, so funny and writes so damn well – I’d put his 100 best columns up against the 100 best of anyone who’s ever lived writing columns in any area, for how funny, entertaining, insightful (within a limited scope) and well-written they are.

    I’ve recently tried to convince Neil deGrasse Tyson to take on communicating climate change in a more meaningful way, telling him that his obsession with asteroid impacts has something like a 1 in 65 million less chance of happening (he talked me down to 1 in 35 million) than climate change.

    But Reilly and deGrasse Tyson are celebrities who are making millions and what I’ve noticed about people making millions and getting immense amounts of adulation and validation for doing so is that they pretty much think things are peachy the way they are, because the system has worked mighty well for them.

    And on the list of talents Reilly’s and deGrasse Tyson’s are impressive, especially relative to standing in line before birth to get the right genes and working out an hour or so a day to look like a goddess – really just winning the genetic lottery – like these models.

    So I’d call everything into question, and if SI in video or print wants to add to their soft porn (beyond the level of the Playboys I occasionally ran into during my childhood) that, by the way, during the lifetimes of their models this place is going to be uninhabitable due to sea level rise, that would be a good thing in and of itself, maybe like a nice public service announcement on the side of the Hindenberg as it reached New Jersey.

  13. Wit's End says:

    The National Geographic videos about the global wawrming are instructive and skillfully produced, but some have the same absurd dichotomy. While decrying the effects of global warming, they promote tourism at places like tropical islands, the Galapagos, and Alaska. It makes you wonder if we are all insane. Here’s an example:

    And Jeff, when I woke up yesterday morning, just before sunrise, it was still snowing, the sky was blue, and everything outside my window was covered in a deep layer of pristine, luscious snow. I had about five minutes of pure joy, watching my cats watch, puzzled, through the window. Then I realized I hadn’t been that happy in I don’t know how long, when I remembered that the snow is literally brimming with unseen toxins. My children used to eat bowls of it, with maple syrup drizzled on top. I wouldn’t recommend that anymore.

    Being enlightened is lonely, scary, and sad, for the most part.

  14. Pierre-Emmanuel says:

    Dear Joe,

    While sharing most of your analysis on the destruction of the climate, it seems to me your post reveals something deeper about “climate-conscious” people, and that something is revolting.

    You write: “Of course, there’s nothing wrong with doing a photo-shoot for the Swimsuit Edition on the Maldivies. But what’s terribly wrong here is for Sports Illustrated to put on the web a video that makes clear its featured supermodels are blissfully unaware of what’s coming (…)”.

    So as long as you’re aware of the destruction of the climate, you’re allowed to use the most efficient climate-destroying machine around, aka the plane? According to which scientific study is plane pollution less dirty when the passenger is “unblissfully aware”?

    In other words, generally speaking, I am tired hearing green people pretending they care oh so much about the climate, and then thinking this posture somehow allows them to use climate-destroying machines such as planes. FYI, for Christmas, the leader of the Green Party in France switched almost directly from Copenhagen protests to her vacation… in the Maldives. The fact that she’s aware makes this, from a logical and moral point of view, worse.

    Thanks for your fantastic blog anyway!


    [JR: I’ve never been a believer that people have to go to zero emissions now, so I don’t quite agree with your statement here. Obviously there are many reasons to travel long distances. I personally have cut down my travel, but the solution to our climate problem goes far beyond a few people not flying.]

  15. Wit's End says:

    Hi Richard, it’s me Gail, thank you for your kind compliment! I (along with several others, I gather) was having chronic problems with comments disappearing, so I switched my ID to Wit’s End, thinking that might make a difference. I didn’t watch this video, I knew it would just make me mad!

    And I tried to make the point without rancor that the same irony could have been noted using a National Geographic nature video that isn’t exploitative of women, which is unfortunately a condition that tends to worsen in times of cultural distress.

    I saw the Book of Eli last weekend, which is a worthless movie except for the scenery. In the midst of post-apocalyptic total desolation and a chronic, severe shortage of water, even to drink, the female leads had perfectly coiffed hair and immaculate complexions. (And of course, they were relentlessly beaten and sexually attacked.)

    Our society of conspicuous consumption and slick marketing just cannot conceive of the real deprivation we are bringing upon ourselves. It is a failure of the imagination to believe that we can continue blithely down this selfish, mindlessly greedy path with the consequences perpetually deferred.

  16. jcwinnie says:

    Well, I certainly hope that SI conveys the models to the photo shoots in Toyota Tundras.

  17. Leif says:

    Wit’s End: I to had a bout of dropped comments starting before Copenhagen and lasting thru Christmas Holidays. For some reason all has reverted to “fine” again or shifted to you and others. I got into the habit of ‘saving” my posts before hitting “send” which saved a lot of grief and hair pulling. Joe looked and could not find an obvious cause on his end and I assumed operator error. One thing I noticed is that as I became frustrated I had a tendency to hold the “send” button a tad longer to assure “connection” but have reverted to a quick tap which appeared to show promise. It could be a red herring however. Perhaps it is a virus that just moves from person to person. I do not understand all I know about these contraptions.
    Best wishes and good to have you back, Leif

  18. climate undergrad says:

    I love how this post turned towards the psychological impacts to those who have spent the ~1.5 hours necessary to understand how serious a threat anthropogenic warming is to maintaining our quality of life. (even for the Rick Reilly’s of the world – a phenomenal sports journalist I might add)

    I find that I personally have about three different moods every day and they are directly linked to what I read here first thing in the morning.

    1. Humble optimism: (ex. Lindsay Graham “the idea of not pricing carbon”) Here I say, ‘ok maybe we will figure this out, pass a comprehensive energy bill, and get on the right track towards securing our national and global future.’ Honestly without I would probably have fewer (#1) days which are by far my favorite, so thanks Joe!

    2. Subdued Pessimism: (ex. Most non #1 days) These days are usually marked by a conversation with my roommate whom I have now convinced anthropogenic warming is real (that took 4 months) but is still unconvinced it will ever be a key issue. These are the days I am confused for an environmentalist (don’t get me wrong I am one) when really I am a humanist – most here will agree that Earth will cleanse itself of our pollution on (its/her/his) own time scale. On these days I feel clean energy will go the way of health care, that industry and money have superseded basic human rights, and that by the time we figure this out it will be too late.

    3. Downright Anger: (ex. Supreme Court allows unlimited corporate political spending.) These days I generally lose hope that we will avoid 4 degrees of warming, lose 40-70% of species, and face terrible consequences to human-health and quality of life. I regress towards, “screw it, let it burn, at least then the real villains (Inhofe, Watts, etc, etc, etc, etc (enough etcs?)) will have nothing to hide behind.”

    Every day I come here hoping to have a #1 day. Any responses that give me 4-5 of these days straight would be lovely.

    As an environmental engineering student I guess the delay machine would point to a conflict of interest – sorry for caring?

    -frequent reader, first post

  19. mike says:

    Love your site. Really. Check it everyday. Once in a while I get the idea that you’re posting stuff just to have something to post. This is one of those times.

    Seriously, who the hell cares what Brooklyn Decker thinks?

    [JR: Hmm. Actually, I got quite pissed when I saw the video. The point isn’t what she thinks, the point is what Sports Illustrated has done here.]

  20. espiritwater says:

    umm… I didn’t see much of the island, Joe. Kind of difficult to think about climate change with all this eroticism. Did you have to include the video?!

    [JR: I put it below the jump this time.]

  21. espiritwater says:

    Not that I’m attracted to females, but the whole thing pulls one’s consciousness down! (unnecessary)

  22. espiritwater says:

    Regarding statement by #13–

    Being enlightened is NOT scarey, lonely, or sad at all! It’s the opposite: it’s bliss! What’s scarey, lonely and sad is ignorance! (Ignorance of Truth).

  23. espiritwater says:

    Walt (#2)– I’ve seen pictures of the island nation of Tuvalu, in which the people were outside, playing balll, going about their daily chores, with the water up to their ankles everywhere they went! The island nations are going under water! In the film they were talking about how they had to deal with the rising water NOW and were devastated at the idea of having to leave their island in the near future and give up their culture (when they all have to leave and go to another country to live). It is happening whether you decide to get your head out of the sand or not!

  24. Richard Brenne says:

    Great to hear from you Gail (Wit’s End), #13 and #15! I thought Wit’s End’s comments were Gail-quality, but didn’t put you two together – I guess since there’s only one of you.

    And like Leif I save my comments to a Word document before sending them and this has saved me the grief of losing my comments but hasn’t spared you the grief of having them posted.

    Espiritwater (#20-23) I agree with you! While I suffer bouts of depression and anger and want to become a U.S. Senator just so I could call Inhofe “My dumb Okie colleaque,” knowing what I know is bliss relative to ignorance.

    I have the most unquenchable passion to communicate climate change and everything related to as many people as possible in as many mediums as possible with as many collaborators as possible and the depth of these friendships and sense of purpose we share is incredible and growing all the time.

    When I give a talk or moderate a panel we all go out to eat afterward and there have been up to 25 of us around one (very big) table and when I’ve had Al Bartlett on my right, Bill McKibben on my left, Kevin Trenberth, Brian Toon and Diane McKnight across from me and could ask them anything (I’m a little known for this) I’m in a kind of heaven like Shoeless Joe playing ball with his friends in a corn field in Iowa.

    (By the way, at every talk or panel I’ve ever given I’ve invited anyone in the audience to join us to eat afterward – hopefully someday many of you.)

    When I coached ski racing on Saturdays for 10 years I was joined by my daughter, former Olympians and World Cup ski racers, NCAR scientists and energy experts and I was coaching many of the best 7 and 8-year-old ski racers in Colorado in a gorgeous environment bordering a wilderness area 22 miles from my house. With these parent-volunteers and the kids we’d have mini-summits on the chairlift to the summit then rip down the double-blacks through the trees bordering the wilderness area then have another mini-summit on the chairlift ride up, with much joking, laughter and appreciation for the beauty surrounding us.

    That’s a rather high standard to meet and I now more often ski during freak snowstorms or cold snaps from my house or around Portland or the Columbia Gorge (not something I expect to do often, but the last two Decembers have been the best for doing this in 19 years for temperature and 40 years for snow), but on Sunday I helped kids from a church group learn to ski and got many beginners up to the top of Mt. Hood Meadows where we’re looking up (when I was their age you could look across from the same point and see it) at the White River Glacier that has lost 60 per cent of its volume since 1900 and telling the kids this they were so wide-eyed that during these kinds of moments I can be in a kind of blissful state that only intensifies my passion to help make their world the best it can be.

    And obviously based on my paragraph above there might be at least a 60 per cent advancing of run-on sentences.

  25. Wit's End says:

    espiritwater and Richard, perhaps I would feel better about being enlightened if I were surrounded by others who were similarly afflicted. As it is I live in a parallel universe, where perhaps only one person (the sainted Significant Other) has reluctantly acknowledged the reality of climate change. Despite my best efforts, everyone else I know either denies or totally ignores it.

    No wonder I lurk around Climate Progress and Joe’s Romm’n’Legions! There are rational people here.

  26. I’m inclined to agree with “mike” above.

    While certain politicians and other liars are fair game, making fun of Sports Illustrated and their supermodels is taking it too far. To me, it implied that young, beautiful, well-paid models are too hedonistic, dumb and inane to have any awareness. Given that these young women have risen to the top of their industry, I would suspect that this is not the case. I would also suspect that they were instructed to comment on the nature of the photo-shoot, and not the state of the climate. As a young person fighting for her future, I just can’t get worked up about this photo-shoot.

    And also, as someone who was unaware of the Maldives until I joined the climate movement, I’m actually glad that the islands are getting any attention at all, no matter how inane.

    I’ve been subscribing to the blog for awhile now, and believe me I still love it! But I must say that this entry exhibited exactly the sort of attitude that makes me embarassed to tell people I am a climate activist. You know very well that there are bigger fish to fry than Sports Illustrated. Keep on frying! Don’t get distracted! Thank you!

    [JR: Glad you like the blog. I rather think the popular culture nonsense is at least as important as anything else. The anti-science crowd tries hard to narrow the range of acceptable discussion. For SI to put up that video is as outrageous as Tol claiming to be a climate scientist. It looks to me like the models were quite unaware. That’d be rather better than if they knew the truth but kept silent. We’ll know more when the issue comes out next week.]

  27. Richard Brenne says:

    This just in: Tol’s now claiming to be a supermodel as well. . .