Environmental Biology Project: Climate Change Requires Expertise

by The Cowl Editor on May 3, 2018


Actor Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the
documentary Before the Flood. Photo courtesy of National Geographic.

Promoting the importance of climate change has become an increasingly relevant issue worldwide. Climate change has been widely accepted by scientists and politicians alike, who only seem to disagree on how severe the issue is. Spreading awareness of this reality has taken place through a number of different outlets.

One of the most prominent of these outlets has been documentaries—most notably Leonardo Dicaprio’s Before the Flood, and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth and An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. These films take slightly different approaches to discussing the issues, however, each is effective in its own way.

Before the Flood has numerous scenes that highlight how important it is for people to make a change and put an end to climate change. DiCaprio travels to India and speaks with locals about how India is dealing with climate change. He speaks with a Sunita Narain, director of the Centre for Science and Environment, who voices her concerns about the issue and the impact that the United States could have on countries to make a change.

It is particularly powerful when Narain says, “Let’s put our money where our mouth is. Your consumption is really going to put a hole in the planet.” Her insight was impactful because she is right—people in the United States cannot insist that other countries make a change in the ways that they produce energy when there is no significant change going on in the U.S.

It would be more impactful if the United States—being a wealthy country—made a change so countries could follow in its footsteps. Another scene that helped emphasize the impact climate change is having on the United States was when DiCaprio visited former Miami Beach mayor, Philip Levine.

Levine and DiCaprio discussed how Miami will be underwater if climate change keeps progressing. This was particularly significant because it is heartbreaking to imagine people’s homes underwater with no place to go. 

On the other hand, Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, directed by Davis Guggenheim, is also very insightful. After watching the movie, some students in the class reacted with phrases such as “Positive change,” “paralyzed system,” and “no lie can live forever.” The film follows Gore, former vice president and environmentalist, and illustrates the passion and resilience that he has for raising awareness and making an impact on global warming.

He did this by traveling to different states and countries presenting and training individuals who wanted to learn about climate change and the threat it poses to our lives. Moreover, Gore also had the chance to be a part of the 2015 United Nations Climate Conference held in Paris, France, which included 25 countries coming together to make a difference in addressing the impact of climate change.

This part of the film highlighted the results that occurred after bringing attention to the problem of climate change and working together to solve it. Another aspect of the film was the visual images and videos of natural disasters.

These images and videos enabled students to understand the realities that are occurring all around the world because of climate change. One clip showed a woman being saved from drowning in a flood in India. Another film showed the flooding that is expected to occur at the memorial site of the World Trade Center. Overall, this film touched many students because it illustrated what could happen to areas of the world if something is not done.

Before the Flood is far more enticing because viewers are able to watch DiCaprio, as opposed to listening to a lecture by a scientist or former politician. DiCaprio was able to counter his lack of knowledge of the subject of climate change by surrounding himself with people who were very knowledgeable.

Having a face that people know is what makes the difference. Today, if people see a celebrity or someone who is concerned about a political or environmental topic, they will listen and follow. We need to have more films like Before the Flood that spread the significance of climate change to a greater audience.

It is no secret that climate change is, and has been, a serious matter. Before the Flood is DiCaprio’s effort to try and promote this issue and bring it to the attention of the public.

However, some people question why DiCaprio is leading the charge in this film when he has no background knowledge or experience in the field of environmental biology or climatology. DiCaprio is merely a face in this field; however, maybe that is what people need. Gore, although well known in many circles, is nowhere near as popular as DiCaprio.

Even though Gore is more of an industry expert and his film is informative and statistics-based, the message fails to reach as great of an audience because  people undoubtedly are more familiar with DiCaprio than the name of any scientists in this era.

Due to this fact, it would seem that —despite his lack of experience—only someone with DiCaprio’s popularity and caliber can call attention to the topic of climate change.