As many of you may already know, Leonardo Dicaprio recently released a new climate change film titled “Before the Flood”. When I heard that one of the hottest actors of our time was making a film talking abut climate change, you know I had to jump on it.
In all seriousness, I know many people may have only watched this movie because Leonardo Dicaprio was starring in it; not to mention the other guest appearances throughout the film by Barrack Obama, Elon Musk, and The Pope. Regardless of WHY you chose to watch this movie, you still watched it, and you still heard the message. I think there’s something very powerful about celebrities using their platform for good like this. Leo is incredibly real with the audience in saying that he’s not a climate scientist, but he wants to learn everything he can about this issue.
In the opening minutes of the movie he’s already called out any critic asking “What does Leo know about climate change and why should we listen to him?”.
This movie isn’t about Leo spewing out facts to the audience about climate change and hoping they’ll listen because he’s Leonardo Dicaprio. The film is essentially following along Leo’s journey to learn the truth about climate change; we are learning alongside him, with the experts who study climate change every single day.
During his learning journey through the Canadian Arctic and the Alberta tar sands, the Amazonian rainforests, and the Indonesian palm oil fields, Leo tells us “the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know.” I think one of the most inspiring things about this film is Leo’s passion for the issue and eagerness to constantly learn more. His desire to learn and his hope for a better planet is inspiring to everyone watching and really motivates everyday people to go out and make a difference.
I didn’t want to write an article that simply summarizes the daunting facts of the movie; that by 2040 you’ll be able to sail over the North Pole, or that in the last 30 years 50% of our coral reefs have vanished, that beef production is the leading cause of atmospheric methane, or that 1 American’s energy use is the equivalent to 34 people’s in India, but some of these figures are too frightening to be ignored.
Aside from the daunting facts that many people have seemingly become numb to, this movie explores more socio-economic issues related to climate change that are often swept under the rug. For example, the differences in energy use between the western world and the developing world. As I mentioned above 1 American’s energy use is equivalent to the energy use of 34 people in India. 300 million people are without power in India; this number is equivalent to the entire population of the United States.
“What the western world has done to developing nations is criminal.”
Yet, the western world is constantly calling on these developing nations to reduce their energy use and adapt methods such as solar energy. However, as environmental author Sunita Narain said, if moving to solar is so easy, why hasn’t the U.S. done it already? This woman was probably one of my favourite parts of the film because she blatantly called out the United States and all developing nations who are constantly calling on the developing world to fix their mistakes. One of my favourite lines from her was “if the U.S. created the problem in the past, third world countries will create it in the future.”
The beginning of the film also talks a lot about climate change deniers and with the recent election of notorious climate change denier Donald Trump, I think this subject is of extraordinary importance. As stated by one of the climate scientists in the movie “the ocean is not Republican or Democratic, all it knows how to do is rise”. Climate change can be heard at the forefront of any political debate and at the end of the day, the argument is not about the science-it’s about the money.
The science is indisputable; 97% of climate scientists believe that climate change is the most important issue in today’s society. Climate change is real, and it is happening at such an exponential rate that if we do not act soon, it will put us into an unstoppable downward spiral towards the degradation of our planet. The problem is the economics of climate change. Many politicians have their pockets lined by big climate influencers such as Shell and BP oil companies, so these politicians fight with everything they have to keep out climate change regulations and make sure things like carbon taxes never get passed.
The problem with the climate change debate is that politicians and other deniers do not even need to win a scientific debate, all they need to do is divide the public. Once the public opinion is divided on this issue, it becomes much more difficult to solve. This is where we come in. Throughout the entire movie Leo is urging people to speak up an stand up for the environment; protest harmful pipelines and advocate for things like carbon taxes, because at the end of the day, politicians aren’t really leaders, they are followers to the voice of the people.
There is a proven phenomena in global politics in which politicians switch their view points as the polls change in the favour of another opinion. Obama for example, was originally opposed to gay marriage, however as the polls began to change in favour of gay marriage, he changed his views and passed bills to support gay marriage rights.
The only way climate change legislation will ever be put into action is if we, the people advocate and push for it, because we are the ones who will shift the polls and force politicians to change their opinions or be booted out of office. One of the simplest ways to make progress in the fight against climate change is the carbon tax. The Canadian province of British Columbia currently has a carbon tax and has seem immense reductions in its emissions since enforcing it. However, if we keep letting oil companies overpower our voices and squashing the carbon tax, we will never be able to put this legislation in place. It is a simple economic fact that if you tax a bad activity that has a negative affect on society people will consume less of it; this was proven when we decided to tax cigarettes. It’s important to note that carbon tax would not actually be an additional tax necessarily. I know people hear “tax increase” and immediately revolt, but a carbon tax simply replaces another tax in most cases. For example, in British Columbia after the carbon tax was implemented, income taxes decreased.
While I believe the carbon tax is the simplest and quickest way to get a head start in the climate change fight, the world has been some small steps towards a better future, specifically with the Paris Agreement that was recently signed by 109 countries including the United States, China, and Canada. Leonardo Dicaprio is the United Nations Messenger of Peace on Climate Change and got to witness the Paris Agreement come together first hand, and while he says its certainly a step in the right direction, it’s still not enough.
The Paris Agreement revolves around the goal of holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C. It’s not a lot, it’s not enough, but it’s a start.
That is the main theme Leo keeps reminding us of throughout the film; there is hope. There is hope for a better future, but we need to act on it. The Pope has a guest appearance in this film in which he calls upon the world to accept the science of climate change and take action; no other Pope has ever done anything like this.
The movie talks about role model countries already working their way towards a more sustainable future such as Germany who gets 80% of its energy from solar, Denmark who on some days gets 100% of its energy from wind energy, and Sweden who has pledged to be the first fossil-fuel-free nation.
Before the Flood is arguably one of the most inspirational and motivational climate change movies I’ve ever seen. It reminds us all that we have the means to make a difference, but need to have the political will to do so. This film leaves viewers inspired and enabled by a sense of urgency and reminds us that we are the last best hope of earth.
To learn more and take action check out the Before the Flood website.