How David Attenborough ‘inspired’ Billie Eilish’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis

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The singer ‘came out changed, really changed’, after watching one of Sir David’s documentaries  (Shirlaine Forrest/Getty for Live Nation UK)
The singer ‘came out changed, really changed’, after watching one of Sir David’s documentaries (Shirlaine Forrest/Getty for Live Nation UK)

Billie Eilish’s commitment to tackling the climate crisis was inspired by Sir David Attenborough, her mother – the actor and campaigner Maggie Baird – has told The Independent.

Speaking on the sidelines of Overheated, an event presented by Ms Eilish that brings together environmental activists, musicians and designers, Ms Baird said when her daughter and son, singer-songwriter Finneas, were growing up she talked to them about the climate crisis “probably ad nauseum”.

“They were raised vegetarian, and then I became a vegan, they also became vegan,” she said, ticking off the sustainable ways she chose to raise her children who are now global superstars. “I threw documentaries in their path – I think David Attenborough definitely had a bigger effect on Billie than I did.”

Ms Baird said she remembered putting on one of Sir David’s documentaries for her daughter to watch.

“She came out changed, really changed from that documentary,” she told The Independent. “Otherwise it was just what Mom says, all the stuff that Mom says all the time.”

Ms Baird is the founder of Support and Feed, the organisation behind the Overheated event which gets its name from a song on Ms Eilish’s 2021 Happier Than Ever album which she is currently touring around the world.

Supported by Ms Eilish and her brother Finneas, the group is calling on people to commit to eating one fully plant-based meal a day for a month. The O2 Arena in London is pitching in by going fully vegan, exclusively for Ms Eilish. The six-day climate event presented by the award-winning artist coincides with the UK and Ireland leg of her world tour, for which she has partnered with US plant-based meat company Impossible Foods as its official food brand.

Ms Baird said they were trying to make the tour “carbon positive” by offsetting more carbon than they have used, and ensuring the crew has reusable water bottles, utensils and vegan catering. Ms Eilish’s entourage is also taking commercial, rather than private, flights and ferries, where possible. The team also have composting and recycling on tour and use biodegradable confetti during performances, she said. They decided not to use pyrotechnics apart from at Coachella because of its high carbon content.

“It’s a constant struggle,” she said. “I think it’s important to be honest about the challenges … everything is debated – should we take the ferry in the middle of the night and no one sleeps, do we take a plane? We take the ferry, but it’s something you have to think of every time.”

Ms Baird she was a vegetarian from a young age because she didn’t want to eat animals, but became more aware of the importance of eating plant-based food to tackle the climate crisis when she moved to New York City in 1981 and saw an infographic showing how much of the Amazon rainforest was being destroyed to make one hamburger.

Elsewhere, Ms Baird said she felt forced to consider whether it was right to have children due to the climate crisis and ultimately decided to have just two.

She also cited a quote that said: “Don’t apologise for giving birth to dragon slayers in an era of dragons.”

“There is something to be said for making sure your own family is fighting the fight and doing the right thing,” she said. “I turned out lucky because my children have a big platform.”

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