One thing I miss about university (funnily enough) are my communications classes where we would critique, dissect and analyse what's going on in the world of media. Anyone who's been paying attention to Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio lately (and let's be honest, who hasn't?) would know that he, along with National Geographic, released the feature length documentary titled 'Before The Flood.'
Now we all know that good ol’ Leo is an avid environmentalist. We've seen him give fancy speeches at the UN, talk with Barack Obama and grow an awesome hippy beard. Whilst I support the fact that Leo - a global sensation - can bring attention to the pressing issue of climate change, I'm not entirely sure that this documentary actually did that. Perhaps that's just because I've seen my fair share of environmental docos and am pretty well informed about the issue, but come on Leo; I think you just scratched the surface on this one. Here are my major critiques of this film.
Why was it focused around you, Leo?
Leo; hearing about the painting that hung above your crib as a child was lovely and all but why was this whole documentary focused around you? It was you being shocked by air pollution in China, you being flown in a helicopter to see the tar sands in Alberta, you who met the Pope and Barack Obama.
And sure, I'm glad that you found enlightenment and were motivated to take action upon seeing and experiencing these things but realistically, climate change is not going to directly affect you, a wealthy actor from California who will still be able to afford food, petrol, clothing and energy. I know that climate change will affect us all, but it affects us unequally. It affects the poor in India who have no access to energy. It affects those who cannot farm their own food. And it affects those who don't have time to rebuild their communities before a hurricane destroys it again. It affects First Nations people losing their sacred land to mining.
The focus should've been shifted towards these individuals to create a more emotive and realistic portrayal of the effects of climate change. You had Titanic. We gave you Romeo and Juliet. This wasn't meant to be another time for you to shine.
Climate change is a people problem.
I believe a huge issue around climate change is the way it's framed in the media. This goes beyond the whole 'showing climate deniers in news stories’ etc. because we all know that that's bullsh*t. I'm talking about the perspective of the environmentalists. We've all seen the image of a polar bear standing on a melting piece of ice before. We've seen before and after pictures of melting glaciers.
We've seen the effects of more frequent and severe storm patterns. Climate change is a human problem. We obviously haven't responded well to seeing nature suffer, but what about us humans? Given our current refugee crisis - especially Australia's attitude towards refugees, perhaps nothing will change us.
It perpetuates the idea of 'developing countries'.
I'm not denying that there are huge differences between the developed and developing worlds, the Global North/Global South, First/Third World... whatever you want to call it. But I'm sick of seeing countries like China and India be portrayed as countries with no consideration for the environment.
And that as they go through their economic and industrial boom, it's implied that they are destroying the environment faster than 'we' have. Of course this is a significant issue but these countries and their people who are affected by air pollution, restricted access to energy, flooding, storms etc. are protesting, innovating and acting. If climate change is a global challenge, then we really need to act globally. Therefore, we need to move away from this backward notion that developing countries are bad guys of climate change because that is simply not true (ahem... Australia, United States, Canada).
There was nothing groundbreaking.
Ice caps and glaciers melting, sea levels rising, the Pacific Islands going under water creating climate change refugees, tar sands in Alberta, China has bad air pollution, we should all eat less meat, America and the majority of the West's economy built on fossil fuels? This is all Climate Change 101. I didn't feel that this documentary contributed anything new to my knowledge of climate change or how to combat it.
On The Bright Side.
OK fine Leo, I'll give you two compliments. But that's it.
Firstly, was your interview with Sunita Narain the environmentalist and political activist. When she shook her head at you, damn did I resonate with that shake. Her perspective was refreshing and she made an extremely valid point: that people who have absolutely no access to electricity don't care if their energy comes from renewable or non-renewable sources. It just needs to be cheap. And she strongly suggests that the US and other developed countries should be leading the way in making renewable energy affordable and accessible.
And secondly, your interview with astronaut turned environmentalist and innovator Piers Sellers – a meteorologist and NASA astronaut - who has dedicated the rest of his life to mapping climate change, that was brilliant.
He talks about seeing the world from the unique perspective of outer space and how that experience has changed his outlook on climate change and its representation. He nailed the idea that we need to look at climate change from a completely different perspective and if it takes someone who's seen the world from outer space then so be it.
OK, so I know I've been extremely critical and it's not entirely Leo's fault (I'll still love you Leo). But climate change is urgent, and it's going to take more than a celebrity talking to some scientists whilst standing in front of a melting glacier to help. Especially when we're hearing this repetitive narrative.
For more information on what you can do or how you can get involved, check out Oxfam's climate change page.
Adelaide is a twenty something human and yes that is her real name. She doesn’t go far without her Doc Martens and a skinny cappuccino. She loves travelling and thinks it’s the best way to meet exciting men people. When she’s not at uni or daydreaming at the beach, you will find her writing on her blog A Worldly Addiction.