Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Yes, I'm a Hypocrite but I Still Want to Save the Planet; Zac Goldsmith Has a Beautiful Family and Millions in the Bank-But He Still Lies Awake Pondering Our -Truly Horrible Future'. We Ask Him Why

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Yes, I'm a Hypocrite but I Still Want to Save the Planet; Zac Goldsmith Has a Beautiful Family and Millions in the Bank-But He Still Lies Awake Pondering Our -Truly Horrible Future'. We Ask Him Why

Article excerpt

Byline: ALISON ROBERTS

WHEN I go to meet Zac Goldsmith, editor of The Ecologist magazine, high-profile environmentalist, and the owner of a personal fortune estimated at anything from [pounds sterling]10 million to [pounds sterling]300 million, I am subconsciously prepared for a scrap. It's easy - isn't it? - to live a good, environmentally friendly life when you've got loads of money. You can afford to buy organic rather than pesticide-ridden, you can pay someone else to launder your washable nappies, and you can walk to work because - like Zac - you can choose to locate the office you own near your house in Fulham. Like lots of things in life, saving the planet requires a lot less effort the more ludicrous your bank balance at Coutts.

This attitude is called inverted snobbery, and 29-year-old Goldsmith is no stranger to it. "Look, I don't live a model life," he says calmly, sucking on an expertly constructed rollup as if to prove the point. "But I do care passionately about these issues. I was involved in environmentalism long before I became a father, but now that I am, I look at my kids and I shudder at what they have in store for them. I don't see things getting any better before they get worse."

Goldsmith, son of the late Jimmy and younger brother of Jemima Khan, has three children between the ages of eight months and four years with his 29-year-old wife, Sheherazade, the daughter of Viviane Ventura (always described as a "socialite") and the businessman John Bentley.

So, do the Goldsmiths use washable nappies? "We use a combination of washable and organic biodegradable," he says, grinning.

Sheherazade does not spend her days up to her elbows in baby poo, then?

"Look, it's fair to say that sometimes I'm a hypocrite on these issues - but to not be, you'd have to live like a monk in the depths of the countryside.

I'm not a fingerwagging environmentalist, and I don't think we should blame people for not living the perfect green life, particularly in a dirty city like London."

Goldsmith doesn't want to talk about nappies. Instead, he is here to proselytise on behalf of the Slow Food movement - the subject of a special report in the latest issue of The Ecologist, and a trend, akin to the organic revolution, that shows every sign of catching on among both foodies and lay ecologists.

Slow Food, as opposed to its bastard cousin Fast Food, promotes the use of whole, locally farmed, environmentally sound, antibiotic-free produce. Its Italian founder, Carlo Petrini, describes it as an " ecogastronomic" movement, and essentially it's about good cooking, good ingredients, and traditional farming methods that don't pollute the land or damage human (or animal) health. Slow Food, says Goldsmith, sets itself up in direct opposition to the monolithic agricultural industry that currently produces the stuff we buy from supermarkets. "It's an answer to the whole food system that is causing so many problems across the board - obesity, the use of dangerous pesticides, foodrelated illness and so on."

Zac Goldsmith comes from a complicated family, but, he insists, a warm and loving one. His father was the head of three families, all existing concurrently and apparently happily in a way that seemed to confirm the ingrained eccentricity of the upper classes - or at least the power of the enormously rich patriarch. Zac and Jemima, the wife of cricketer Imran Khan, are the children of Lady Annabel Goldsmith, whose beauty they both share. He is close to his sister, and dismisses recent speculation regarding the state of her marriage as "absolute nonsense".

It was his mother's influence that stopped him dropping out of Eton at 16.

"I wasn't very good at school," he says, "and I got expelled the next year anyway." (Apparently because a teacher found dope in his room.) "I used to be obsessed by David Attenborough as a boy. He was my hero, and it was his work that made me fall in love with the natural world. …

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