Environmentally Speaking

Before The Flood

Leonardo DiCaprio’s newest film, Before The Flood, is his first documentary, delineating him the growing identity of actor turned environmentalist. After being named the UN Ambassador of Peace for the U.S., DiCaprio took this as an opportunity to increase his credibility and environmental credentials by embarking on a two-year filmmaking voyage in collaboration with National Geographic, in which he travels the globe to see first-hand the effects of climate change. 

The results are powerful.

 Before The Flood reminds us of the tangible, palpable, and all too real negative changes in our environment due to human caused climate change. The facts are crystal clear. We’ve known about this issue since the 1950s, and this film raises the controversial conversation of how politics and big business (namely the fossil fuel industry) have systematically and ruthlessly prevented efforts for this information to be disseminated to the public and dealt with in legislation. Now, over 50 years later, we’re seeing CO2 emissions, sea level rise, drought, deforestation, species extinction and so much more at a level that is unprecedented in our 4.6-billion-year old planet’s history. This film makes it abundantly clearly that something is indeed very, very wrong.

And yet, its pessimistic tone from the start morphs into one of optimism as DiCaprio interviews men and women and companies that are doing something about this. It emphasizes change on a large scale – predominantly the path of renewable energy so as to diminish our dependence on fossil fuel, and on an equally important individual scale with behavioral changes.

This film is important, it’s thorough, and it’s geared toward anyone who is confused about climate change, whether that be what the causes are, what the perpetual issues are, and what the solutions might be.

While I encourage and commend films like this to be made and re-made and talked about until the conversation is as publicized as this stupid election, my beef with the film (pun intended) is that DiCaprio never shares the behavioral changes he’s made in his own life to accommodate all he’s learned. I literally laughed out loud when I read the credit at the end that said the film offset its carbon footprint by “paying a voluntary carbon tax”. With an Executive Producer like Scorsese behind the project, we know your film probably has a flexible budget, so to claim that forking over a little extra cash relieves you of your carbon footprint doesn’t exactly take the film’s message to heart. Those carbon emissions don’t suddenly disappear. What can we do differently to reduce or altogether eliminate our impact?

I was disappointed that when the conversation of diet was brought up in the film, we breezed through it. “Yeah beef has the largest carbon footprint.” “Yeah your diet is probably the fastest and easiest way to make a difference.” “Um, try to eat less beef and more chicken.” Huh? Why do we constantly pacify people’s feelings on this? Here’s the deal: a meat-based diet has a really, really, really big carbon footprint. Dairy has a big footprint too. Transportation of fruits and vegetables takes a lot of water and energy. Eat locally, eat plant-based, reduce your dependency on meat. Yes, this is the most immediate and significant way you can make a difference.

To me this part really hurt DiCaprio’s reputation as the Executive Producer of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, a film that argues veganism is the only environmental dietary choice. What does someone like DiCaprio do after learning all of this? Does he stop flying in private jets? Drive less? Eat differently? Do anything? We don’t know. He never says. And that, to me, is a wasted opportunity to inspire people otherwise.

The film is online and free forever, and I think it's our responsibility as residents of this planet to watch it and be informed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90CkXVF-Q8M