By Betty Rosenbaum, Staff Contributor

This year Leonardo DiCaprio released his newest film project, Before the Flood. [1]  Running at 96 minutes, director Fisher Stevens follows Leonardo DiCaprio through his investigations into the current state of our environment and possible future scenarios.  Although the film does not contain groundbreaking research or new information, the format of the movie provides an interesting take on climate change.

The movie begins with DiCaprio defending his position as an environmental advocate.  He acknowledges that there has been much ridicule about a famous actor tackling scientific and political issues.  From there, DiCaprio explains how his background and childhood have shaped his passion for the environment and how he has educated himself on the most important issues facing our planet.

Once he establishes his credibility, DiCaprio moves to the events of the 2014 Climate Leaders Summit.  The film features a discussion between DiCaprio and United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, about the current effects of climate change.  After this, DiCaprio journeys through the world, expressing shock and concern at the pollution and destruction he observes.  In the Eastern Hemisphere, DiCaprio witnesses the devastating production process at the Great Canadian Oil Sands, the melting ice at Baffin Island, Canada, the rising water in Miami Beach, and the dying coral reefs in the Bahamas.  On the other side of the world, DiCaprio observes the drastic ice melt in the Arctic Circle, the deathly smog in China, the insufficient power supply in New Delhi, the “sinking” islands of Kiribati and Palau in the South Pacific, and the rapidly disappearing rainforests of Sumatra.

At each location, DiCaprio discusses the events occurring and the actions that are being, or should be, taken.  These discussions give interesting insight into the concerns and ideas of each place.  The information conveyance could have been improved by altering the film format from discussions to interviews.  I found that many of DiCaprio’s comments were unnecessary, and occasionally worked against him.  The speakers had important ideas to share and could have been effective without DiCaprio’s opinions being included.

After describing the impending doom facing this planet, DiCaprio moves to the future of the planet.  He begins this section in Nevada, discussing a completely sustainable gigawatt factory with Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of Tesla Motors.  Musk presents the idealistic concept that the world could run off of relatively few gigawatt factories.  I would have liked to see a deeper scientific analysis of this potentially revolutionary idea.  Next, DiCaprio moves to the formation of the Paris Agreement in 2015.  He interviews United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, about how powerful the alliance of the United States and China will be in regards to bringing the rest of the world together to implement policies to slow and prevent climate change.  Naturally, DiCaprio continues to the White House, where he discusses with President Barack Obama how the Paris Agreement will shape the future, and the actions that should be taken to mitigate the destruction of the environment.  Covering another large development, DiCaprio meets with Pope Francis at The Vatican.  He discusses Pope Francis’ revolutionary inclusion of environmental protection in the agenda of the Catholic Church.  This is a strong complement to the previous improvements, because the audience is able to see that policy changes are being made worldwide, domestically, and even within religions.

Overall, I welcome a celebrity producing a movie about such an important topic.  I think that his involvement will help to continue bringing climate change into the public eye and educating the newer generations.  The movie was presented in an easily understood format, without the usual statistically heavy scientific approach which can be confusing to those who are new to the environmental or science world.  Hopefully, this will help to expand the reach of the movie and bring awareness and education to groups previously unaware or reluctant to learn about climate change.

[1]             Before the Flood (National Geographic 2016).