Filmstar and environmental activist, Leonardo DiCaprio has made our cinema trips and our planet so much better.
Since his breakthrough film role in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 drama “Romeo + Juliet,” DiCaprio has been a constant presence on our movie screens. For those over a certain age, the artist will probably have also been plastered all over their bedroom walls as the quintessential teen heartthrob of the 1990s.
From Jack Dawson to Hugh Gatsby, DiCaprio’s movie roles have established the Los Angeles native as a fantastic and versatile actor. But off-set, the award-winning environmentalist has dedicated swathes of time, finances, and resources to saving the planet.
The 44-year-old star is indeed a force to be reckoned with and here are just come of the ways that the erstwhile Romeo has been a friend to the planet and all those who inhabit it.
1. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Still damp from his “Titanic” exploits, the then 23-year-old star founded the eponymous organisation in 1998 to address some of the globe’s biggest environmental concerns. Top of the list are ocean preservation, wildlife conservation, and global warming.
Over the last two decades, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has awarded over $80 million in grants to more than 200 environmentalist projects working in 50 countries and all five oceans.
A lot of LDF’s campaigns are enacted through partnerships with localised projects such as Kenya’s Mikoko Pamoja enterprise which focuses on conserving Mangrove Forests. As well as working at grassroots level, LDF also works at a cohesive global level through its partnerships with international organisations including the World Wildlife Fund, Oceana and the Wild Foundation.
2. Animal Welfare and Conservation Work
Friend of the furry, scaly, and slippery alike, DiCaprio has worked extensively to protect endangered species through his LDF projects. In 2010 the LDF donated $1 million to an innovative Nepalese conservation project to preserve the country’s wild tiger population.
The LDF also funds projects to protect the Black Rhino in Tanzania, the lowland gorilla in Central Africa and the snow leopard in Central Asia.
As well as supporting projects dedicated to preserving the habitats of endangered species, the LDF also campaigns to stop the inhumane trade of animal products such as ivory. In 2013 LDF sponsored a petition instrumental in ending the ivory trade in Thailand. The foundation also supports the WildLife Direct project which identifies illegal ivory trade routes and cartels using DNA tracking.
Although all of the LDF six focus areas are geared towards preserving and bettering the planet for all its inhabitants, two are specifically dedicated to wildlife activism. These two project areas are “Wildlife and Landscapes” and “Marine Life and Oceans.”
DiCaprio is certainly a big fish when it comes to marine conservation. The LDF pledged $7 million of funds towards marine conservation initiatives at the 2014 Our Oceans conference. Last year DiCaprio also met face to face with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to plan a new initiative to save the critically endangered vaquita. It is believed there are only 30 of these graceful porpoises left in the wild. The star’s award-winning film, “Sea of Shadows,” addresses the endangered species decline and offers innovative ways for reducing pollution in our oceans.
Such is DiCaprio’s commitment to protecting the planet’s wildlife, that the campaigner has had both a Malaysian beetle and a Dominican spider named after him as a tribute to his environmental activism. That’s a legacy few people can lay claim to.
3. Public Speaking
DiCaprio has used his A-List status for considerably more noble causes than securing VIP entry into nightclubs. In his 2016 Oscar acceptance speech, which he won for his portrayal of Hugh Glass in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” the activist used the televised event as a global platform to address climate change. When picking up the coveted gold figurine, DiCaprio ended his speech with the following words:
“And lastly, I just want to say this: Making ‘The Revenant’ was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow. Climate change is real, it is happening right now. It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed. I thank you all for this amazing award tonight. Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted. Thank you so very much.”
This wasn’t the first time the Martin Litton Environmental Warrior award winner had used the annual Oscar’s ceremony to raise the profile of environmental issues. In 2007, DiCaprio joined the then Vice President Al Gore to announce that the event had partnered with the Natural Resources Defence Council to lower the world’s carbon footprint.
DiCaprio has also raised his voice about the state of our planet in his role as a United Nations Messenger of the Peace which he has was designated as in 2014. The star famously spoke at the United Nations 2014 Climate Leaders Summit which received global news coverage.
4. Film Work
Having been in the movie industry for over 25 years, DiCaprio is well aware of the power of film to raise awareness and evoke change. So when not in front of the camera, the Academy Award Winner has produced several environmental and animal welfare documentaries. As well as two short web documentaries called “Water Planet” and “Global Warming” which are both available on YouTube, DiCaprio has worked as executive producer on a number of feature-length documentaries including “Cowspiracy” and “Sea of Shadows.”
The actor also produced and narrated “The 11th Hour” and used the momentum from the film to organise a charity gala. The “11th Hour” fine art auction raised almost $40 million for the LDF, which made it the highest grossing environmental charity event ever held.
Ever ready to set records in the environmental activism sphere, DiCaprio’s 2016 film about global warming, “Before the Flood,” was one of the most watched documentaries in history. Produced in partnership with the National Geographic, the film received 60 million views in just three months.
5. Investment in Vegan Companies
DiCaprio has his fingers in all sorts of pies and what’s more, they’re all plant-based. The Global Green USA’s Environmental Leadership award winner has invested large amounts of money in vegan companies which offer more sustainable means of feeding our global population. DiCaprio’s investments include plant-based milk manufacturer, Califia Farms and the Beyond Meat company which has won awards for its plant-based mock meat products.
The Beyond Meat company is particularly aligned with DiCaprio’s environmental goals. On their website, Beyond Meat explains its brand mission: “By shifting from animal, to plant-based meat, we are creating one savory solution that solves four growing issues attributed to livestock production: human health, climate change, constraints on natural resources and animal welfare.”
The LDF partnered with the Jane Goodall Institute last year to launch a full vegan clothing range in support of ape conservation. The range which was named “Don’t Let Them Disappear,” included organic T.shirts and a recycled fleece hoodie with all the items sporting the urgent appeal “Don’t Let Them Disappear.” The line was available for two weeks only and were designed to honour the iconic primates.
6. Humanitarian Work
As well as his tireless environmental activism, DiCaprio is also a philanthropist and committed to human causes such as education and protecting the rights of indigenous communities.
The LDF has partnered with Amazon Watch to advance the rights of and protect the lands of the Amazon Basin’s Indigenous tribes. The LDF also works with projects that conserve the history and culture of the Chumash People, the Alutiq community and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.
In 2016, DiCaprio and fellow environmentalist thespian, Mark Ruffalo showed their support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight against the installation of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As if this wasn’t enough to make you a lifelong Leo lover, DiCaprio also worked with 24 orphaned children in Mozambique during 2006 filming of Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond and donated $65,000 to the Children of Armenia fund in 2016.
7. Social Media
Ever the 21st-century man, DiCaprio is a big proponent of using social media to connect with the masses on matters of significance. The actor’s Instagram is a sea of campaigning, packed with posts about climate change, women’s rights, conservation, and wildlife protection.
With 29.9 million followers on his personal Instagram and 508,000 on the LDF account, DiCaprio regularly uses his platform to promote the very issues he’s been vocal about. The award-winning actor doesn’t shy away from putting the issues front-and-center.
Frankly, when it comes to community spirit, environmental consciousness and dedication to promoting positive change, DiCaprio is an example to us all. Near, far, wherever you are, Leo’s charity work goes on and on.