When stars leverage their pulling-power to highlight issues beyond themselves, that’s when I like them. When they make the effort to extend the reach of their celebrity so that it can magnify a social cause, that’s when I love them.
Take Leonardo DiCaprio. Instead of basking in his good looks and fame, in 1998 at the tender age of 24, when other stars were out partying, he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to protect the Earth’s last wild places. By implementing solutions to build a more harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world, he produced films to rouse the public about the dangers of global injustice and climate change.
With environmental degradation the most compelling theme of his preoccupations, DiCaprio made the 11th Hour, a look at the state of the world’s environment with practical solutions for restoring global ecosystems. In 2016 he produced Before The Flood that warrants another blog. But it’s his 2014 documentary that has shaken me. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret.
If you haven’t seen it. Watch it. I’m still reeling from its chilling message. This is a documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he explores the most destructive industry facing planet earth today. By investigating why the world’s leading environmental organisations are too afraid to discuss the appalling fallout of animal agriculture; it’s impossible not to consider the dire environmental consequences of what we eat.
Irrespective of whether it’s healthy for us, animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution. Responsible for more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry, it is a primary driver of rainforest destruction, species extinction, habitat loss, topsoil erosion, ocean ‘dead zones,’ and virtually every other environmental ill. Yet it increases in gargantuan proportions, practically unchallenged.
As Andersen tries talking to environmental movement leaders, the self-censorship he encounters in these quarters reminds me of the intentional refusal to discuss other contentious issues beyond ecology.
For instance, the illegal occupation of Palestine, mainstream media and the rise of fake news, dangerous global finance lobbies, and the list of obfuscation continues… By ostracising anyone who dares comment, let alone criticise, the menace of retribution stymies dialogue and the rule of law.
Coming back to Leonardo, his foundation has now upscaled its grant making operation, allocating over $10 million to projects that protect fragile ecosystems and key species worldwide, while also improving the lives of local communities. Recently, he led several innovative fundraising events, raising over $60 million for projects the foundation is developing and supporting. Additionally, to empower fans to make a difference, DiCaprio uses digital media to inform and inspire the public, offering them ways to take action on an array of issues – from protecting sharks in California and elephants in Africa to supporting the transition to clean, renewable energy. Now that’s what I call a real star.
Leonardo DiCaprio has supported the following charities listed below:
- African Wildlife Foundation
- Cinema For Peace
- Declare Yourself
- Feeding America
- Film Foundation
- Global Cool
- Global Green
- Green Cross International
- Indigenous Environmental Network
- International Fund For Animal Welfare
- Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
- Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation
- Natural Resources Defense Council
- Onyx and Breezy Foundation
- Pediatric Epilepsy Project
- Reef Check Foundation
- Save the Elephants
- SOS Children’s Villages
- Stop Global Warming
- The Gorilla Organization
- The Solutions Project
- Unite for Japan
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Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her capacity as the editor-in-chief of NY&ME, and do not in any way represent the views of the magazine, or any other related entity of GVP Media.