Leonardo Di Caprio’s new documentary Before the Flood gives us a feature-length commentary on the current state of climate change. As to be expected, we see Di Caprio visiting countries all over the world to witness the effects climate change is having (and has already had).
Throughout the film, he speaks to scientists, politicians, astronauts, Barack Obama and the Pope – quite the cast, right? After many beautifully shot, but perhaps clichéd panoramas of deforestation, melting ice sheets and storm-battered communities, Di Caprio then begins tackling what can actually be done to prevent further damage to the environment.
With one scientist, he discusses how Germany runs on 30% solar and wind power, how Denmark, on some days, runs on 100% renewable energy and how Sweden has made a promise to become the first fossil-fuel nation. The apparent contrast with the United States couldn’t be starker. The climate change denier’s camp is still worryingly strong in the US, with Fox News anchors still claiming a “global warming hoax”. Many politicians within the White House are named (and shamed) as climate change deniers and, most worryingly of all, is a clip of the recently chosen president-elect Trump recklessly making a mockery of the entire issue to the bellowing cheers and laughter of his followers.
The film also touches on meat and, particularly, beef consumption as one of the leading causes of climate change. As other documentaries, such as Cowspiracy (2014), have gone into more detail about, the issues involved with the production of beef, the space it takes to grow feed for the animals and the unprecedented amount of methane they release into the atmosphere all point toward the environmental benefits of a adopting a vegetarian diet. Even cutting out just beef alone could be enough to make a real change. A message which Beyond the Flood puts out in an accessible manner, rather than the perhaps more ‘confrontational’ tone of other documentaries.
One of the most successful moments of the documentary is when Leonardo speaks to British-born meteorologist and NASA astronaut Piers Sellers. Recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, Sellers is dedicating the rest of his life to raising people’s awareness of the damaging effects of climate change. He speaks to Di Caprio about the time he spent in space observing earth as a whole, how its atmosphere is as fragile as an “onion skin” and how he’s really come to care for the earth, and the people who live there. “The facts [about climate change] are crystal clear,” says Sellers.
To wrap up, there’s nothing strikingly new about this documentary when you compare it with the many other climate change documentaries out there. What it does have though, is the luxury of being presented by an extremely well-known and well-liked actor, giving it real potential to bring in a wider and more diverse audience. The important message itself is there after all. I just hope people are listening.