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Monday, 15th July 2024

The man of change

Being a top actor has enabled Leonardo DiCaprio to spread his ecological beliefs and goals wherever he goes. U.N. Messenger of peace, member of environmental organisations, vehement in his fight against climate change, he is one of the most powerful and listened-to eco activists on the planet. A planet he wants to protect against the threats that plague it, with mankind as its main enemy.  DiCaprio makes the most of his influential position to raise awareness about global warming, water management, fair trade, protection of endangered wild animals and biodiversity. In 1998 he set up his own foundation to personally help preserve the environment and promote renewable energies, donating over 30 million dollars to the cause. But he isn’t just green on the outside. In his daily life he tries to be an example: he travels on commercial flights, he uses green cars and solar panels at home and is permanently in contact with experts to find out first hand just what the planet is up against. His next project is an eco-resort on a private island in Belize, which will set precedents in the hotel sector and that aims to safeguard and reactivate a land that mankind has ill-treated. “The main goal is to do something that changes the world”. What Leanoardo DiCaprio defends is so important to him that he didn’t think twice about devoting the most valuable seconds of his Oscar acceptance speech to reminding us that a better future is in mankind’s hands only. “We need to work together. For our children. Let us not take the planet for granted”.

“As an actor, to earn my living I pretend. I play fictitious characters who often solve fictitious problems. I think mankind has looked at climate change in the same way: as if it were fiction, something that was happening on someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away”.

If there is something Leanardo DiCaprio is really passionate about, apart from a great role with a great story behind it, it is protecting the environment to ensure a sustainable future for Planet Earth, which in the last few years has turned him into an advocate for the fight against climate change and for the protection of species. His involvement in the cause is more than significant, although this is not the best-known side of the actor, as discretion is one of his premises, which goes for his private life as much as for his work environmental work.
Although he is the man of a thousand faces on the big screen, playing heroes and villains to perfection, from dramas to comedies, harrowing fantasy to extraordinary reality, in his daily life, Leonardo DiCaprio is a passionate activist committed to a number of causes, especially the conservation of the environment, basing his struggle on demonstrating the importance of acting in the face of a fact that affects mankind and is real. “Every week we see new and undeniable climate phenomena, showing that climate change is already here. Droughts are intensifying, the oceans are warming, temperatures are increasing and the Antarctic and Greenland ice-caps are melting at an unprecedented rate, faster than scientists predicted. This isn’t rhetoric or hysteria. Climate change is a fact and the greatest threat to our safety.
His activitism started long before he had to wear an animal skin as a coat and brush with hypothermia to win the Oscar for Best Actor for The Revenant. In the late 90s, DiCaprio created a foundation that bears his name and whose objective is the protection of endangered species, the promotion of renewable energies, the end of deforestation and global warming, “the number one challenge for the planet”.

Although he has admitted on several occasions that his concern for the real situation of biodiversity arose a long time ago, when he was entering boyhood, as his parents affixed a reproduction of the “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by El Bosco to his cot and he was upset about the loss of Eden. Through the foundation, DiCaprio has given voice to the many problems that plague the Planet. As a celebrity he has a powerful megaphone with which to be heard. He is respected and admired, which gives him the status of an influential person able to get through to the public with his ecological discourse. But his work doesn’t end there. The actor’s commitment goes well beyond raising the population’s awareness about the real problems it will face in the future. DiCaprio preaches by example. In the foundation, he takes care to stay up-to-date with the news, reading and keeping experts in climate science and policy to hand, travelling to places suffering the cruel effects of climate change at first hand. “I’m not a scientist and I don’t need to be one. The scientific community has already spoken and given its forecast. If we don’t act together, we will surely perish”.
Such is his eagerness to find out about the future of the Planet, that he is in permanent contact with top researchers, like Michael Mann, climate scientist at Penn State University. “It takes up all my time. There aren’t two hours in the day that I’m not thinking about it. It’s not like the aliens are coming and we have to fight to defend the country, but this is inevitable and very terrifying”. This is why over the last few years he has taken measures in his daily life to help defend a more healthy Planet. Instead of travelling in a private jet, DiCaprio has decided to take commercial flights in order to minimise his carbon footprint. He uses efficient cars, both hybrid and hydrogen, and has placed solar panels on his house to transform solar energy into electrical energy. DiCaprio has attended several environmental actions in which he has made calls to the authorities to act to respond to the great challenges that climate change presents at present and which will be accentuated in the future if nothing is done. “It’s not about simply telling people to change their light bulbs or buy a hybrid car. This disaster has gone beyond the choices we make as individuals. It’s about our industries and governments, who must take large-scale decisions to determine our future”. Since he created the foundation in 1998, he has donated over 30 million dollars to United Nations climate negotiations, protecting coral reefs and tigers as well as raising public awareness about the dangers of climate change. He is a regular at eco-friendly events and does not just contribute his image, but also participates whenever he can in activities related to the protection of the environment. He is a member of the Board at Global Green USA, of the Natural Resources Defence Council, of the WWF and of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
In 2014 he walked through the streets of Manhattan with 400,000 people on the People’s Global March, which took place in 150 countries in promotion of specific, decisive measures against climate change just before the UN summit dealing with important issues and at which he was present.  He did not shrink from appealing to leaders to be courageous in combating the greatest threat to mankind. “It’s not a party debate, it’s a human debate. Clean air, water and a climate we can live in are inherent human rights. And solving this crisis is not a political issue. It’s our moral obligation”.

His artistic career is littered with prizes and acknowledgements, memorable films that already form part of cinema history. And this indelible mark on cinema could not be without the making of documentaries that show the catastrophes threatening the Planet. The 11th Hour is written, produced and narrated by DiCaprio and relates the problems the Earth faces, such as deforestation, global warming and the loss of natural habitats, among others. More than 50 people take part in the film, including politicians, researchers and activists and its sole objective is to demonstrate that the future is in danger. Although he presents a very harsh reality, he proposes solutions such as conservation, the use of eco-friendly technology and man’s assumption of its responsibility.
One of the large-scale projects DiCaprio has in hand is one of the most sustainable hotel projects of our times. Blackadore Caye, a private island in Belize, with 104 acres of wild, uninhabited land, will have an eco-resort of 68 villas giving onto the sea, whose maxim will be to serve as an example of eco-friendliness. The actor bought the island on visiting the country in 2004, because it was “like the sky on the land” and, since then, his aim has been to restore it to build a complex that has no environmental impact apart from improving the biological context of its species and waters. “The main objective is to do something to change the world…. I could not have gone to Belize, built on an island and done something like this if I didn’t have an idea that it could be a pioneer in the environmental movement”.
This desire to save the world, to create a fairer one for all living creatures and for a future respect for nature accompanies him daily and did not desert him on the most important day of his acting career.  When he went up to collect the Oscar for his role in The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio had millions of eyes watching him, and he knew it. In his fifth nomination, with overwhelming expectation, he got up on the stage and, instead of talking about how long he had been waiting for the prize, he used his acceptance speech to make a totally unexpected environmental plea. “Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship with the natural world. Our production team had to go to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow.  Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted”.

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