What vision does your mind conjure upon hearing the name Leonardo DiCaprio? The golden lover boy of the Titanic era? The suave, smart banker of Wall Street? Or the uncouth savage with the matted hair and wrapped in carcass?
For many years, it was the love-stricken youth and his ultimate sacrifice that I, like most others, used to recall. All that changed when the world saw Leonardo pick up the Oscar after having been nominated and denied the award, each year, for nearly twenty years. It was worth the wait, for young Leo’s Oscar acceptance speech was legendary and gave an insight into the compassionate mind that existed within the glamorous exterior. And it is precisely that dignity and maturity that pops into my head on hearing his name.
“Let’s not take this planet for granted… I don’t take this night for granted”, said he, the light in his eyes as shiny as the prize trophy he held in his hand. An actor finally wins the greatest honour of Cinema after a steady failure of two decades and six nominations and uses his winning podium as a platform to talk about climate change? That blew me away.
Leonardo had met with the then Vice-President, Al Gore, in the White House in 1998, and cites that meeting as the catalyst for his involvement in biodiversity and oceanic conservation, climate change, and other environmental issues. Somewhere along the way, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation was born and has been heralding new innovations and efforts to protect nature, each day. The foundation donated $3m in 2014 to stop overfishing, $3m to protect tigers in Nepal, and funding Enrick Sala’s (a researcher with NatGeo) initiative to create marine reserves in the Pacific. All this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Leo, himself, began his climate activism by narrating a film based on climate change, The 11th Hour. A lot of his earlier propaganda involved performance. It has evolved now to include chats with UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon and marching with nearly 400,000 citizens across the streets of Manhattan, in a peaceful protest against the worsening climate. Be it explorers from National Geographic, environmental advisors, or researchers like Michael Mann from Penn State, everybody seems to be amazed at the level of commitment exhibited by the man, towards so different a field from his profession. A true pioneer, Leo also consistently reads material related to climate science, confers with subject matter experts whom he has hired to help him get a first-hand view of the existing issues and traveling to places at the forefront of climate change.
Just recently, Leo grabbed headlines again by investing a huge sum in sustainable footwear brand, Allbirds. The Kiwi brand is dedicated to developing footwear using eco-friendly materials whose carbon emissions are lower than the norm.
The official website of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is a treat to the weary eyes which have seen too much of planetary destruction. The Foundation seems to be involved in righting so many wrongs and setting the cornerstone for a more sustainable future. Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans, illegal trafficking of lions in South Africa, empowering communities with solar power, and, of course, working on combating climate change, it appears that there is no issue which escapes this consortium’s attention.
Playing the role of the aviator in real life as well, Leonardo DiCaprio has gone far in making the planet greener and restoring its former glory. Once again, the Wolf has proven to be humane.