I’m sure you haven’t heard yet (sarcasm), but couple days ago, beloved actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Academy Award for his fifth career nomination. Leo used a generous portion of his 90 second speech to remind the world that climate change is an urgent matter that demands our immediate attention.
“Making ‘The Revenant’ was about man’s relationship to the natural world, the world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in reported history — our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow.
Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It’s 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. I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”
Our beloved Leo has been deeply committed to environmental efforts for quite some time, and has used his massive popularity to raise awareness for important issues. Several weeks ago at the World Economic Forum he even received the Crystal Award, which recognizes the achievements of leading artists who have shown commitment to improving the state of the world.
Over the last few days since making his grounded Oscars speech, all kinds of people have popped out of the woodwork to criticize Leo for bringing environmental issues to light- calling him everything from a rambling hypocrite to straight-up illuminati.
Fox news summed up the thoughts of all skeptics “Leonardo DiCaprio used his Oscar acceptance speech on Sunday to deliver a message about the perils of global warming. But the A-list actor, who flies private jets, rents out entire yachts, and maintain multiple million dollar residences, has a carbon footprint that’s likely among the biggest in the world.”
Well… that’s all quite reasonable, but does that truth render Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental efforts null and void?
I would argue that no, it doesn’t. Nobody is perfect, but what’s critical is looking at the net, over-all effects that we have on this earth. Most importantly, we need to recognize that it's not only granola-eating, Haida-Gwaii living, carbon-neutral hippies who are able to legitimately champion sustainable lifestyles. There is certainly no shortage of selfish unsustainable behaviours in this world, but we seem to be in need of all the education and support we can get- from whoever we can get it from.
Leo is a vegetarian and actively advocates the diet to others as a way of having a meaningful positive impact on climate change- he even funded and served as Executive Producer for the documentary “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret”. I’ve written in previous posts about the horrendous effects that agriculture has on the environment and how a more sustainable diet could reduce carbon emissions to a more significant degree than eliminating ALL transportation. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation works tirelessly to protect vulnerable wildlife and habitats. According to their website, the LDF works in 4 key areas: Ocean conservation, protecting biodiversity, wild-land conservation, and climate change.
Round-trip flights on private jets certainly contribute to pollution and therefore climate change, but as an overall net-effect, it’s reasonable to suggest that Leonardo DiCaprio’s existence has had a far greater positive effect. He has motivated many many people (including myself) across the globe to change their lifestyles to live more sustainably. His environmental efforts reach millions of people and his positive impact in the fight against climate change certainly outweigh his own personal contributions.
At the Oscars this week, Leo used his immense public platform to communicate the importance of awareness surrounding climate change and the environment at a moment when his sole message could have been self-congratulatory.
Sustainable living is an ambiguous, complex beast but it is certainly not an all-or-nothing endeavour. Bravo Leo.