Leonardo DiCaprio is patient. He waited decades for his first Oscar win earlier this year. He tirelessly dates gorgeous supermodels one after the other after the other in search of the perfect soul mate (presumably), and he seems to be waiting out every single one of the climate naysayers with the release of yet another poignant climate change documentary he’s narrated and starring in.
“Before the Flood” is the latest documentary directed by Fisher Stevens who’s best known for another Oscar winner: 2009’s “The Cove,” which followed the egregious annual Japanese dolphin slaughter.
“I just want to know how far we’ve gone, and if there’s anything we can do to stop it,” DiCaprio says about the state of the climate in the film’s trailer as he visits chunks of Antarctica’s ice shelf breaking off, floods, deforestation, ocean acidification, and other destitute parts of the planet before talking climate solutions with experts including Barack Obama, Pope Francis, and, of course, Mr. Save-the-Future himself, Elon Musk.
Earlier this year, DiCaprio also reportedly joined forces with the Hindu Nationalist Party, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in calling for a major global decrease in beef consumption. DiCaprio produced the 2015 documentary “Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret,” which looked at why some of the world’s leading environmental organizations refuse to call out animal agriculture as a leading cause of climate change.
Animal agriculture accounts for at least 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, although some experts suggest its impact is even higher.
Beef Magazine (yep!) deflects DiCaprio’s urging, pointing instead to his lavish lifestyle as the real culprit: “DiCaprio jets around the world on his private plane, sails the open seas on his personal yacht and lights up his oversized mansion, the actor-turned-activist is calling for average Americans to curtail their energy use and to fight climate change by, get this — banning beef,” writes Amanda Radke.
Radke, a cattle rancher herself, says climate change is questionable, equating it curiously to just visible smog, and insisting that millions of beef cattle aren’t a problem, “perhaps we should look collectively at the many things we use in our everyday lives that require energy — from the clothes we wear to the cars we drive and to the electricity we use,” she writes. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen smog over a pasture full of cattle, but I certainly have seen it in the concrete jungle of big cities where people, not animals, live.”
While yes, of course we should be (and already are) looking at clothes, electricity, and certainly the impact of cars, among other culprits, the blatant ignorance about animal agriculture’s impact on the planet reinforces the need for films like “Before the Flood” and radical calls to shift our dietary habits to more plant-based foods.
Certainly most meat-eaters aren’t going to give it all up just because Leonardo DiCaprio asked them to. But maybe if he keeps asking—keeps making poignant documentaries, delivering powerful speeches, and getting the message out there however he can—maybe it will change some minds. And just giving up meat a few meals a week is not insignificant. Some experts say it's enough to tip the scales, and one of the easiest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Moving toward the abundance of plant-based proteins now widely available could reduce costs related to climate change by as much as 50 percent by 2050, found a recent study.
But yet, despite data, and films like “Cowspiracy,” or "Before the Flood," most people “are still not aware of the full extent of meat’s climate impacts,” researcher Annick de Witt wrote in Scientific American earlier this year.
“We examined how citizens in America and the Netherlands assess various food and energy-related options for tackling climate change,” de Witt explained. “We presented representative groups of more than 500 people in both countries with three food-related options (eat less meat; eat local and seasonal produce; and eat organic produce) and three energy-related options (drive less; save energy at home; and install solar panels). We asked them whether they were willing to make these changes in their own lives, and whether they already did these things. While a majority of the surveyed people recognized meat reduction as an effective option for addressing climate change, the outstanding effectiveness of this option, in comparison to the other options, was only clear to 6% of the U.S. population, and only 12% of the Dutch population.”
“This is the most important issue of our time,” DiCaprio says in the film, “the question is: Can we change our course in time?”
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