Smiling from his recent success with the movie “Shutter Island”, Leonardo DiCaprio continues to use his celebrity status to help the environment.
He does this actively with The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, an organization that fosters awareness of environmental issues by participating with such groups as the Natural Resources Defense Council, where Leonardo is on the board of trustees; Global Green USA, where he serves as a board member; and the International Fund For Animal Welfare, where he is on the honorary board of directors.
“Until we as a country start moving in a positive direction, I am going to continue to do that because we really are the ones. We and China need to set the example for the rest of the world to follow with clean energy and green technology,” DiCaprio told Reuters.
To expand global awareness of environmental issues, the DiCaprio Foundation created the Leonardo DiCaprio Eco-Site. The result has been a wider outreach to an international audience. The site also promotes current environmental and renewable energy campaigns, such as the world wide movement to eliminate the use of plastic bags, or the promotion U.S. Congressman Bernie Sanders bill to build 10 million roofs by 2020. More than anything, Leo’s Eco-Site is designed to be a forum where individuals and communities can take action in the sustainability movement.
In 2001, Environment Now honored the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with its prestigious Martin Litton Environmental Warrior Award. The foundation also spearheaded the production of the feature-length environmental documentary, The 11th Hour, and helped launch the online network.
In early 2008 the DiCaprio Foundation joined the California Community Foundation, and is now known as The Leonardo DiCaprio Fund at CCF. The fund will continue to support environmental causes through grantmaking and active participation.
According to Reuters reporter Christine Kearney, who held a recent interview with DiCaprio, Leo grew up in urban Los Angeles but has carved out a reputation as one of the biggest names to vocally support the environment and preserving nature. Kearney asked the star why he chose this cause.
“I was very affected when I was young as a kid living in an urban environment. My only access to understanding nature was through documentaries and being able to go to the natural history museum and watching IMAX shows on the rainforest,” DiCaprio explained. “It just affected me at a very young age, the depletion of the rain forest, our natural resources.”
Kearney also asked DiCaprio if he wants to be the next Al Gore and does he think of himself as an environmental crusader.
“Crusader, that summons up images of a man with a sword on a horse,” he said laughing. “I took up the issue 10 years ago and I have seen massive progress ever since Al Gores’s documentary. And I have also seen the issue ignored and re-ignored.”
A section of the Dicaprio Foundation’s website, entitled “Tar Sands: Our Addiction to Oil Hits Rock Bottom,” uses Alberta’s tar sands to highlight the fact that although awareness of climate change and environmental degredation have increased, these problems have not been solved and remain paramount.
A portion of the section reads:
“Once a pristine forest and watershed, the Athabasca River Valley in Northern Alberta has been irreparably scarred by the largest fossil fuel project on the planet: the Tar Sands. It is a large deposit of oil mixed with sand underneath the Boreal Forest. Despite the profits for large corporations, the Tar Sands produces oil at a staggering cost. If its expansion is not sharply curtailed soon, the Tar Sands will become an environmental quagmire the size of Florida. Conventional fossil fuels are bad enough, but fuels made from the Tar Sands are even worse.”
At each step of the process, DiCaprio’s website states, turning tar sands into oil undermines the local and global environment. “First, the Boreal Forest’s rich ecosystem (or mere “overburden” as the industry refers to it) must be ripped open to expose Tar Sands sludge. Then otherworldly trucks as tall as apartment buildings dig up four tons of earth for every one barrel of Tar Sands sludge they extract. Next comes the resource-intensive process of separating the oil from the sand, requiring huge amounts of water and energy, and producing vast quantities of global warming pollution. For surrounding communities, the process also produces toxic waste: 11 million litres (3 million gallons) a day pour into the surrounding water.”
For DiCaprio and his foundation the tar sands represent another hurdle to overcome as the world community shifts its vision of itself.