Leonardo DiCaprio. When most people here this name, they think about the legendary Titanic, different dream-levels, Wall Street, and a man who climbs naked into an animal carcass to keep himself warm in the freezing North American wilderness. His first and long-awaited Oscar win this year tops a film career that spans more than two decades and has produced many of the most memorable performances, including those in Titanic, Inception, The Wolf of Wall Street, and The Revenant.
Many people who are interested in celebrity gossip also know that he has a preference for supermodel girlfriends and is keeping a close friendship with his Titanic and Revolutionary Road co-star Kate Winslet. And a few might even know that he has German and Italian roots and loves Schnitzel and Spätzle, the German dishes his late grandmother Helene Indenbirken used to prepare for him when he visited her in Oer-Erkenschwick, western Germany.
But Leonardo DiCaprio is not just one of the most talented actors of our time, if not the talented, he is also a passionate environmentalist who established his own foundation as early as 1998. Ever since, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has worked to protect Oceans, Forests, Wildlife, and to fight one of the most urgent threats to our global safety – climate change. An excerpt from the foundation’s mission statement reads as follows:
LDF implements solutions that help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring the long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants. Since that time the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues of our day.
While Leonardo’s engagement has often been played down by people and media, who still deny the existence of climate change, others have continuously recognized him for his tireless efforts. Two years ago, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon designated him as UN Messenger of Peace for Climate Change. He has spoken at the UN General Assembly twice to raise awareness for the urgency of the problem and attended climate summits.
After producing the documentary The 11th Hour, which was released in 2007 and already broached the issue of climate change, his newest documentary, for which he travelled the globe over the course of the last three years, is called Before the Flood and was released and made available to watch for free globally today. The film that was produced by DiCaprio and directed by fellow Academy Award-winner Fisher Stevens follows the American actor around the world as he meets with scientists, world leaders, and other renown figures to discuss the problem of climate change as well as possible solutions. Among the well-known people Leo visited are the already mentioned UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, indian scientist Sunita Narain, Pope Francis, U.S. President Barack Obama, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. The film also shows Leo visiting places that already show the severe effects of global warming, for example Greenland, and places where human action destroys natural habitats, for example the Indonesian rainforest where thousands of trees are uprooted in favor of palmoil plantations.
Despite recent dirt that has been spilled on DiCaprio because of his Foundation’s financial ties to Malaysian businessmen involved in a corruption scandal, reviews of Before the Flood, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, have been overwhelmingly positive. The fact that National Geographic, which the film was produced for, made the film available to watch and stream for free to a global audience, is exemplary. Leonardo himself announced that he was happy that people around the world are able to watch the film and learn about scientific truths and possible solutions to urgent problems.
But Leonardo’s engagement isn’t restricted to producing films, spearheading his foundation, and informing people about truths and action. He also leads by example. He was among the first to drive a hybrid car and bikes around Los Angeles as often as possible in and effort to reduce his personal carbon emissions. Furthermore, his home in California is “green”, meaning that it is designed to be as eco-friendly as possible. Of course, people still criticize him for not sacrificing enough of his personal wealth and lifestyle in an effort to fulfill the expectations his status as a celebrity environmentalist comes with. But the truth is: people who focus on single shortcomings of others in order to discredit their engagement and achievements mostly do not engage in any efforts to solve the world’s problems at all.
Before the Flood is a riveting example of how a celebrity uses his status to raise awareness of issues that affect us all. It doesn’t matter that many people might only watch the film, because it features and is produced by someone with worldwide celebrity status. What matters is that they see it, learn about the facts and what they can do to help, and tell others about it.
You can watch Before the Flood now for the next five days on YouTube following this link. The German version can be streamed at natgeotv.com/de. Find out more about the issue, the movie and ways to watch it in other languages on www.beforetheflood.com.
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