We only have one Earth—one environment, one eco-system, one climate to protect. Despite the wondrous dreams of colonizing another planet in our endless galaxy, that adventure is still a farfetched mission for a multitude of scientists and scholars.
In the meantime, our universe is dying; decaying coral reefs, charred forests, and dwindling wildlife threaten our very existence. Scientists have spent decades researching to understand and, hopefully, prevent catastrophe before it’s too late.
Now, it seems, it may be too late to turn back.
There’s many who discredit and disagree with climate scientists’ findings although the scientific community, as a whole, has accepted that climate change is real.
And so, this led Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey to understand the damage already done by climate change and the bulletproof science behind it.
As an appointed United Nations representative of climate change, and after years of environmental activism, DiCaprio sought out to raise awareness with his documentary, which followed him as he travelled to numerous cities across the globe, from Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic to New Delhi in India, to speak with numerous leaders, scientists, and environmental experts.
The documentary, “Before the Flood”, opens with DiCaprio reflecting on a painting that used to hang above his crib, The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. The infamous triptych has three panels depicting three radically different scenes. The left panel, known as the Joining of Adam and Eve, shows a dazzling landscape with Adam and Eve living in harmony with nature.
In the center panel is an expansive garden landscape teeming with blatant nudity, the intermingling of fantastical creatures and humans, and unashamed sexual curiosity—a nature of self-absorption in a playground of corruption.
This panel is the current human race as DiCaprio sees it: a culture of sin and mutual destruction that will result in the right panel.
In the last panel, the landscape is no longer rich with color and diversity, but it’s a blackened landscape, charred and hellish. Demons linger in the darkness. Twisted beings ravage the burnt remains of a lost civilization as humans are now the food for these mutated beasts.
That last panel is what will happen if we continue with our narcissistic and self-absorbed ways, according to DiCaprio.
With the intense vision of Bosch’s last panel lingering in our heads, we witness the stunning parallels between the Hell of his painting and the Hell we have created here on Earth through fossil fuels.
DiCaprio takes us to Alberta, Canada, where we fly over the Canadian forests to see a similar charred and oil-ridden wasteland where trees and wildlife once thrived. Suncor Energy is to blame for this scene, a Canadian tar sands operation that, according to its Vice President, rolls out “350,000 barrels of synthetic, crude oil per day.”
As DiCaprio so accurately puts it, the entire scene “looks like Mordor” from Lord of the Rings.
Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, then explains our toxic dependency on fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which cause mass deforestation, water poisoning, and rising amounts of energy to sustain. Unlike what Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stated at a previous debate, “there is no such thing as clean fossil fuel,” Brune went on to explain.
Throughout the documentary, DiCaprio carries us across the globe to further understand and accept this global issue. In the Canadian Arctic, we meet Dr. Enric Sala, a National Geographic explorer, who shows us the melting ice that has caused our oceans to rise.
Perhaps the biggest issue facing climate scientists, however, isn’t public denial of their findings, but corporate interests. We then meet Dr. Michael E. Mann, a Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State University, who received threats for his scientific findings on climate change.
“Hatred and fear is, in fact, organized and funded by few players,” Mann states, citing Koch Industries and other fossil fuel industries for paying off Republican politicians in exchange for their refusal to pass legislation to transition into clean energy.
Throughout the documentary, we see DiCaprio’s knowledge on the subject grow and blossom as he meets with celebrated world leaders and distinguished scientists across the planet: Ma Jun, the Founding Director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in China; Anote Tong, the President of Kiribati; Barack Obama, the President of the United States; and even Pope Francis at the Vatican.
As the film goes on, layer after layer of knowledge and fact is laid on top of us.
We learn of the polluting effects of the beef industry in America, the massive loss of rainforests in Indonesia, the bleached coral reefs by many island nations, the technological advances for Gigafactories of Tesla’s famed Elon Musk, and the Paris Climate Summit that saw every country of our world come together to combat climate change.
DiCaprio calls for us to not only accept the reality of climate change, but to vote for leaders that will invest in renewable energy, and to push out of office Republican politicians who discredit climate scientists not for the lack of scientific data or evidence on the issue, but because of the fossil fuel industry funding their campaigns and, therefore, buying them out in favor of short-term profits.
These politicians include: Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Mitch McConnell, Sen. James Inhofe, and many others.
In the end, Leonardo DiCaprio has put together a visually stunning and moving documentary on the real threat of climate change, its environmental damage on our planet, and what we can still do to minimize the pollution and carbon emissions before our world echoes the black, decayed and barren panel of Bosch.