Before the Flood Documentary

This weekend, I had the opportunity to see Leonardo DiCaprio’s new film, Before the Flood. Following DiCaprio’s journey through places and phenomena shaped by climate change, the film features many familiar faces we’ve seen in documentaries about environmentalism and climate change.

As a recently appointed UN Messenger of Peace with a focus on climate change, DiCaprio has been using his stardom for quite a while to bring attention to issues on climate change. However, dissenters evenmoreso attack climate change supporters because of DiCaprio’s appointment to the UN, saying he has no scientific background and as a Hollywood actor is just as superficial as climate change is.

The film also examines climate change denialism funded by fossil fuel industries, including the Koch Brothers. Like Merchants of Doubt, the film explains that all these corporations have to do is divide the public, not win the debate; corporations find people with fairly reasonable credentials to speak lofty on climate change. This is enough to create a two-sided debate amongst the public.

But, this film brought to my attention the fact that a large percentage of US leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives are connected, in one way or another, to fossil fuel companies and halt progress on preventative measures.

Another issue the film examines is the issue of lifestyle and consumption. People argue that these issues must be put at the center of climate negotiations. American consumption of energy has increased dramatically and seemingly exponentially, and compared to the consumption of other nations is completely ridiculous. But, Dicaprio argues that consumption is never going to change; Americans are not going to want less, spend less, or expect less. Rather, what needs to change is the type of energy used: from fossil fuels to renewables.

But currently, the US is hypocritical in telling other nations to use renewables when they don’t even push it on themselves. A major question the film posed is: Why can’t the US lead by example when it comes to renewable energy and climate change provisions? Is it not our responsibility to help the world transition before it’s too late?

Besides for renewable energy, the film looks at melting glaciers in Iceland, rising sea levels and its effect on small island countries and even here in the US, the effect of palm oil throughout the world, air quality and toxicity in China, coral reef destruction, “carbon bombs” in forest fires, and methane release from cows, among other topics. This film certainly tries to tie all of these topics into one large discussion on climate change, and while overwhelming, it certainly brings to awareness many issues that I’ve known about and many that I hadn’t learned about.

Ending the Paris Climate Accord Signing and serving as the ending of the film, DiCaprio powerfully declared to world leaders: “Now think about the shame that each of us will carry when our children and grandchildren look back and realize that we had the means of stopping this devastation, but simply lacked the political will to do so. Massive change is required right now—one that leads to a new collective consciousness, a new collective evolution of the human race inspired and enabled by a sense of urgency from all of you. You are the last best hope of earth. We ask you to protect it. Or we, and all living things we cherish, are history.”

If you have time, I highly recommend seeing this film in theaters, on Hulu, or on YouTube.