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Before the Flood

by Callie Lyons

Traveling the globe to examine places impacted by environmental changes, Leonardo DiCaprio presents a view of a world in need of change.  Before the Flood, which is narrated and produced by DiCaprio, is both a message of hope and a call to action. The WVU Parkersburg Ecohawks recently hosted a screening of the movie, which I was fortunate to attend.

The term “climate change” (and before it “global warming”) reeks of politics, divisive sentiments and bad science on both sides of the argument. However, it is impossible to ignore the evidence presented in this documentary.

DiCaprio is the UN Messenger of Peace on climate change. His appointment by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in 2014 inspired him to explore and the movie reveals what he discovered. The documentary covers two years of travel and detection.

The movie begins with DiCaprio describing a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, which is known in the modern age as The Garden of Earthly Delights – a triptych representing creation, excess, and wickedness. It’s an imaginative work of art and though it is hardly an illustration intended for children, it hung on the wall of DiCaprio’s childhood bedroom inspiring much contemplation. The producer refers to the painting throughout the movie – drawing parallels between the foreshadowing artwork from the Renaissance and the modern day environmental crisis. At first glance, Bosch appears to be the Salvador Dali of the 1500s.  Closer examination reveals a prophecy of great importance – a world ravaged and ruined by human gluttony.

DiCaprio observes melting glaciers in the Arctic Circle, sunny day flooding in Florida, Beijing smog, sinking South Pacific Islands, disappearing coral reefs in the Caribbean, and deforestation in Indonesia. At each location, he speaks with experts who show him compelling situations that are threatening the welfare of the planet.

The Paris Agreement of December 2015 engaged 197 countries with a commitment to reduce carbon emissions. DiCaprio calls this a giant step forward, but “nowhere near enough to solve the problem.”

Taking his conclusions with him, the award-winning actor visits with President Barack Obama at the White House and then travels to Rome for a discussion with Pope Francis.  Pope Francis recently released a new document on environmental issues calling on the world to accept the science of climate change, to stop its progression and to help the poor and disadvantaged.  For, while first-world residents argue the merits of the science, entire populations of people living along oceans are forced to find new permanent homes, creating the potential for wars over diminishing resources.

Regardless of your politics or opinion on the hot button topic of climate change, after watching this movie there is no denying that the Earth is going through changes brought on by humans. However, there is room for optimism. And, herein lies the most important message of the movie. Because your generation is the last best hope for earth it is important to know what actions individuals can take to make a difference. Examine your lifestyle and alter your consumption. Be informed and get involved.

Personally, I am further encouraged that DiCaprio presented future first daughter Ivanka Trump with a copy of the movie and initiated a conversation with the new administration about environmental issues and the development of green jobs. I hope Ivanka watches the movie with an open mind and heart and is inspired to use her influence to advise the president’s environmental policy.

More information about the movie can be found at beforetheflood.com.

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