Leonardo DiCaprio Unveils Climate Change Documentary

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Leonardo DiCaprio addresses the opening session of the UN Climate Summit / John Gillespie

October 5, 2016, AlterNet

The threat of climate change confronts us all. Despite the deniers, it is already in our midst. It may, without warning, assume catastrophic proportions. There may still be a chance to forestall calamity, but individuals and nations resist acting on their responsibilities. Many of the issues NPQ readers care about (poverty, flooding, droughts, war and disease, terrestrial and freshwater species facing extinction risks) are likely to worsen as the world warms.

Leonardo DiCaprio unveiled his climate change documentary Before the Flood (trailer here) September 9th at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it was recently screened at the White House. The 96-minute film chronicles the awareness-raising travels to five continents of the Academy Award-winning actor, United Nations Ambassador of Peace, and longtime environmental advocate. The film, three years in the making, will air October 31st on National Geographic, intentionally timed to the U.S. presidential election. Award-winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens (The Cove) directed the film. The subject of this documentary is certainly not unique, but it may be among the most watched because of DiCaprio’s star power. He radiates passion and speaks bluntly. He receives insight from others with equal luminosity such as entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk, meteorologist and astronaut Piers Sellers, activist and environmentalist Sunita Narain, President Barack Obama and Pope Francis.

Al Gore’s 2006 An Inconvenient Truth attempted to convince the world that the climate was changing. DiCaprio’s film addresses a world ten years later in which 200 countries agreed last December in Paris to cut carbon emissions. The U.S. and China just forged a “historic partnership to lead the world in combatting climate change.” DiCaprio’s documentary is meant to keep everyone’s feet to the fire.

In the film, DiCaprio travels to Alberta, Miami Beach, Beijing and Indonesia. He observes toxic tar sands, flooded streets, smoggy cities and the wreckage of forest fires. Witnessing the sudden cleaving of a massive glacier in the Arctic, DiCaprio exclaims, “Oh my god, look at how violent that is!”

While the drama of climate change unfolds in sometimes extraordinarily powerful ways across the globe, he acknowledges the difficulty in getting people to join the discussion and push for action. “Try to have a conversation with anyone about climate change, people just tune out,” DiCaprio says in the film.

President Obama issued an executive order titled “Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change.” The Pope’s second encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” or “Care for Our Common Home,” delivers a moral message that that the Earth has been exhausted and depleted and that the poor will suffer the most as a result. Before the Flood is merely one more plea for everyone to become, as Pope Francis describes it, “painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening in the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

DiCaprio won the Best Actor Oscar for his leading role in The Revenant. The movie was supposed to be filmed in Canada, which, ironically, had experienced its warmest winter in three decades. The film crew searched the world for snow and finally chose the tip of Argentina to film the final scenes. DiCaprio knows climate change up close and personally.—James Schaffer