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Leonardo DiCaprio - Clean Energy Advocate or Massive Hypocrite?

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In the wake of Leonardo DiCaprio's well deserved Oscar win, Beth Sasha examines the more real world issues of his acceptance speech...

This year’s Academy Awards were among the most controversial in recent history. Amidst the turbulence were celebrity boycotts, assertions of racism from the general public and, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio’s longstanding quest for the Best Actor Oscar. All of this drama made for quite an exciting night, but DiCaprio wasn’t content to let it end there. Once he finally made it to the podium to accept his award, he turned the attention away from himself and onto members of the audience, viewers at home, even world leaders - calling for urgent action on climate change, an issue which deserves our greatest attention.

When addressing the audience, Leonardo first thanked the usual suspects; his costars Tom Hardy, director Alejandro Inaritu, and the cast and crew. But the core of his speech centered on what else it took to make The Revenant possible - namely, our connection to the natural world. “Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow,” he said. This is, as growing research indicates, just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg. January 2016, the hottest month ever recorded on the planet, was just surpassed by February 2016. March, of course, is poised to take the next top spot. If we continue to treat the environment with such cavalier indifference, if we plow through the Arctic with a “business as usual” approach, soon there will be nothing “natural” left to return to.

DiCaprio, some may be surprised to learn, takes his role as Celebrity Lorax very seriously. Here’s a little background on Leonardo DiCaprio’s extensive experience as a clean-energy crusader:

> Created the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998, to focus his philanthropy efforts

> Appointed a UN representative on climate change in 2014

> Owns several environmentally friendly cars such as a Toyota Prius, a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, and an electrically powered Tesla Roadster

> His home(s) draw significant power from solar energy.

His Oscar speech wasn’t the first time that he’s spoken about these issues to the broader public. Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he spoke similarly about the environmental impact of the Big Oil and other polluters. In December, at the Climate Summit in Paris, he delivered another plea towards international leaders and governments to begin addressing what could be the greatest challenge of the modern era – our rapidly warming world. Though we have seen improvements in recent years - according to ATCO gas and electric, solar power has now overtaken natural gas as the fastest growing source of electricity in the United States - the country still uses renewables for just 13% of its overall “energy mix.” Keeping pace with the promises made in Paris will be nearly impossible if we don’t make some enormous changes ASAP.

Taking these speeches at face value is easy - Leonardo DiCaprio really cares about the Earth! - but isn’t Leo something of a hypocrite when it comes to the luxuries in his personal life as a professional playboy and worldwide celebrity? DiCaprio, despite repeated Oscar snubs, is unquestionably on Hollywood’s A-list. He bumps into his best friends in foreign countries, sips top-shelf liquor, and vapes unironically. This level of success comes with a carbon footprint most could only dream of.

Mr. DiCaprio has been known in the past to borrow or rent massive super-yachts that guzzle marine diesel faster than almost any other type of transportation. In 2014, Leonardo used the $680 million Topaz for watching that year’s World Cup. The Topaz burns through thousands of gallons of marine diesel in a given day and the 45 crew member ship also pollutes extensively through the waste gasses produced by its air conditioning system.

So, is Leo lying when he makes these environmental appeals? I think it’s more appropriate to assess the fact that his actions, especially those initiated by his foundation, have perhaps made a larger, more lasting positive impact than his own pollution foibles, and the good that he’s done in the service of planet Earth’s PR department should not be undervalued. The mission statement of his foundation is to, “support innovative projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction, while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities”, and so far they have supported over 65 environmentally minded organizations and been awarded over $45 million in grants. From saving wild tigers to pressuring energy companies to “Keep It in the Ground”, a lot of good has been done for humanity’s future in his name.

Leonardo DiCaprio is certainly one of today’s most passionate environmentalists working today and it’s clear that he is committed to raising awareness the best way he knows how. This isn’t to say that he shouldn’t be more careful when managing his own carbon footprint - but nobody’s perfect. By endeavoring to make himself part of the solution as best he can, DiCaprio encourages others to take initiative immediately and act on a problem that will only grow larger the longer we wait.


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