Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar for The Revenant after six total nominations, but the acclaimed actor used a portion of his long-awaited Oscars speech to address the very real issue of climate change. It was a fantastic use of an international spotlight by one of the world’s most famous celebrities to draw attention to the world’s most pressing threat. And this was just the tip of the titanic iceberg that is DiCaprio’s interest in life-changing and Earth-saving science.
DiCaprio didn’t grow up as a child of scientists or find an interest in acting during a pursuit of a scientific education–he’s been acting professionally since he was 15 years old–but his interest in the environment and the science behind it spurred him to launch the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 at 24 years old. The non-profit organization with an aim of promoting environmental awareness focuses on “global warming, preserving Earth’s biodiversity and supporting renewable energy.” This earnest work from a high-profile celebrity led to recognition from environmental groups in the early 2000s and a chair position for the Earth Day celebration in 2000, during which he interviewed President Bill Clinton regarding global warming and policies that could be put in place to encourage Americans and U.S. companies to pursue “green” practices.
2007 saw DiCaprio co-write, co-produce, and narrate the global warming documentary The 11th Hour. The title of the film lent itself to DiCaprio’s record-setting fundraising auctions that would bring in millions of dollars for conservation efforts in the years to come.
In early 2013, DiCaprio told German newspaper Bild that he’d be taking a break from Hollywood to “improve the world a bit. I will fly around the world doing good for the environment. My roof is covered with solar panels. My car is electric.” That last bit might sound like a non sequitur, but DiCaprio’s electric Tesla Roadster, a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, a Toyota Prius and solar-powered house are concrete examples of him walking the walk rather than simply talking the talk. He has, however, drawn criticism for his use of private jets and luxury yachts, a divisive behavior considering his pro-environmental outreach.
In late 2014, DiCaprio teamed up with Netflix to executive produce Virunga, a documentary film that followed park rangers in their efforts supporting gorilla preservation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Netflix partnership continued in 2015 when DiCaprio executive produced an exclusive cut of Cowspiracy, exploring the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, for the streaming-content provider.
While DiCaprio’s immense financial success has allowed him to purchase an island off the coast of Belize, the Oscar-winning actor is not just using the private getaway to, well, get away … he’s turning the 104 acres of Blackadore Caye into an eco-resort. While some might view the “luxury resorts, sprawling villas, and infinity pools” as counter to a pro-environmental stance, the island “has suffered from over-fishing, an eroding coastline and the deforestation of its mangrove trees,” which DiCaprio and his partners aim to rectify. Guests can look forward to booking a stay at “Blackadore Caye, a Restorative Island” sometime in 2018.
2016 saw DiCaprio’s foundation and its partner in the World Wildlife Fund announced that the world’s tiger population has increased for the first time in over a century, thanks in part to funds raised by the LDF. As a final example of his commitment to science, just this year on Earth Day, DiCaprio, a United Nations Messenger of Peace, spoke before the Paris Agreement for Climate Change Signing in New York City. Take a look and listen to his message below:
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Images: Oscars, Appian Way