We first learned of the perils of climate change from none other than the great scientist Dr. Suess. “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees, which you seem to be chopping as fast as you please”, my kindergarten teacher would read. The year was 1999. Bill Clinton was president, and I named my Barbie doll after Monica Lewinsky. My parents bought our first recycling bin, we had compost gathering competitions in school, and switched to the energy efficient swirly light-bulbs. We can do this, everyone thought. It’s not that hard.
According to Leonardo DiCaprio, “the greatest problem facing the world today is climate change.” DiCaprio highlights this issue in his recent documentary Before the Flood. They make the case that the facts are undeniable: temperatures are rising, ice is melting, sea levels are rising. Many U.S. citizens think that the previously mentioned mentality we had towards conservation in 2000 is still enough.
Some have criticized DiCaprio, along with his documentary (especially those who deny the facts of climate change). FOX News reporter Sean Hannity even claimed, “who better to educate the public on the hoax of climate change than a Hollywood actor with zero years of scientific training?”
However, the issue of climate change has become so severe that the producers with the National Geographic believed the public NEEDS a recognizable face at the center of this call to action. DiCaprio does just that, breaking down climate change into simple terms that even I could understand.
Climate Change, According to Leo:
Basically, everything we’ve done and created in the past, from methods of transportation (such as trains, cars, etc.) to the production of our food has created a release of fossil fuels and an increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. This increase of CO2 in the atmosphere leads to a rise in temperature. This results in all sorts of chaos, from flooding to droughts, wildfires, the melting of the polar ice caps, changes in sea level, destruction of habitats……. The list goes on and on.
One of the primary climate change factors affecting the environment today is the rise in sea level. This rise is due to the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps. According to research done by LiveScience, by the year 2040 there will be no sea ice left in the Artic in the summer, meaning it would be possible to sail over the North Pole.
This isn’t just affecting the Artic, however. Glaciers are also melting and therefore receding in places South of the equator, such as Bolivia. According to a study produced by the European Geosciences Union Journal in September of this year, these glaciers shrunk 43% between 1986 and 2014. These receding glaciers put habitats at a great risk. “Glacier recession is leaving lakes that could burst and wash away villages or infrastructure down stream” said lead-author of the study Simon Cook, a professor of Physical Geography at Manchester Metropolitan University. In addition to washing habitats downstream, “these receding glaciers can also leave behind lakes dammed by bedrock or debris. Avalanches, rockfalls or earthquakes can then breach these dams, resulting in catastrophic floods.”
This is only one potential threat of climate change that the movie highlights.
“This isn’t like one of the movies I act in where we can write our own ending.” DiCaprio says. “It’s up to all of us.”
He gets his point across effectively- I cared enough after watching it to go to a featured website to calculate my carbon footprint (which is 11.7, 1.2x the national average…oops).
Leonardo DiCaprio acts as The Lorax for adults in Before the Flood: “we have the means to stop this devastation, but lack the political will to do so.” He reminds us that climate debates have been going on for 21 years. 21 years. That’s our whole lifetime. I think it’s time we finally did something. Or else, just like DiCaprio’s iconic character and the sunken Titanic, “we’ll be history.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” -Dr. Suess, The Lorax