By: Abbey Morelli, Contributor
With the intent to raise awareness about climate change, The David E. Shi Center is showing a four-part film series throughout this academic year. The first part was shown as a Cultural Life Program this past Wednesday in Burgiss Theater. The film is called “Before the Flood,” and it is a National Geographic documentary written by Mark Monroe and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio that depicts the effects of climate change on our planet. The film follows DiCaprio as he travels to the Arctic, Miami, China, India, and Indonesia to study climate change. When I watched this documentary, I was shocked to learn just how simple it can be to take measures to reverse the damage we have done.
DiCaprio was named the United Nations Messenger for Peace on climate change. He traveled to interview numerous experts, scientists, and politicians for the film. He did so to make sure his viewers are presented with verifiable facts. Such research shows that due to ever increasing fossil fuel consumption, we will continue to see changes in weather patterns with detrimental effects that include not only flooding, but also droughts, wildfires, and unbreathable air. DiCaprio narrates that “there is no such thing as clean fossil fuel.” We need to find other ways to create energy. People should not need to be convinced to recycle, unplug lights, carpool, or generally take steps to lessen our ecological footprint. Hopefully having such a successful actor on the earth’s side will convince those in denial to accept what science is telling us.
In the documentary, DiCaprio interviews Mayor Philip Levine, who insists that Miami quite literally experiences ‘sunny day flooding,’ where water will ooze out of sewer grates and flood the streets. The two discuss how climate change is not addressed by politicians such as Marco Rubio, and that senators who oppose the idea are blocking bills from passing. Senator James Inhofe claims that climate change is ‘the biggest hoax.’ How can we look at what the earth was and what it has become in just a few hundred years and deny that this is our fault?
When DiCaprio visits China and finds that they are making the most headway in prioritizing wind and solar power, it is devastating to hear that the reason for their conviction is due to how much they have been impacted by climate change already. The air is visibly full of pollution. In India, Sunita Narain argues with Dicaprio that yes, there are ways to avoid using coal as fuel, but with millions of citizens lacking power and funds, coal is the most inexpensive option. She explains that in the United States, it is an issue of lifestyle, for one American citizen uses over three times the energy as citizens of other nations. Seeing it from other countries’ perspectives, viewing their lifestyles, and reading about the ways they have made headway in ‘going green’ all points to one conclusion: in the United States, we are the nation causing the most problems.
Coral reefs are disappearing. Rainforests are burned to the ground. Palm Oil Plantations are taking up the forests. Similarly, cows from the meat industry take up mass amounts of land. They produce methane, one molecule of which equals twenty-three molecules of carbon dioxide. Gidon Eshel, research professor at Bard College, tells DiCaprio that changing your diet and purchasing groceries without palm oil can make a difference. Even changing part of your diet from beef to chicken “eliminates 80% of what you emit.” As someone who has been a vegetarian for nineteen years, I can assure you, it is not that life altering. Such small changes make a significant difference for the planet and leave me questioning those who are not willing to acknowledge climate change as a problem and strive to address it. Why is it so hard for us to accept what is factual and admit that we are the problem?
After viewing footage of melted glaciers, flooded, streets and polluted air that forces people to wear masks outside, it is hard to imagine that anyone, including supposedly educated politicians, do not believe and publicly denounce this issue. Showing a film like “Before the Flood” on a college campus is crucial because we, as students, are the minds being educated to instill change. I encourage students to continue attending the Shi Center’s film showings and receive CLP credit while also becoming educated about such an important issue as climate change.