January 29, 2017 -- This National Geographic documentary film features film producer, and film star Leonardo DiCaprio in journeys around the world promoting awareness of human-caused climate change and policies to combat it.
DiCaprio, as a movie star, and as a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change, has access to an impressive array of famous people from politician Al Gore to President Obama and Pope Francis. We see him with these three, and many more people around the globe, from Baffin Island in the far north, to Patagonia at the southern tip of South America, exploring the extent of climate change.
This film was apparently shot at around the same time as he was starring in the award winning film, “The Revenant,” for which he earned his Academy Award. That is how DiCaprio ended up in Patagonia (Argentina) because there wasn't enough snow in Canada, due to unseasonably warm weather, to finish filming the winter scenes. He also visits Greenland to witness the rapid melting of the glaciers there.
One of the more arresting visits is with the Mayor of Miami, where large pumping systems and sea walls are being built, at a cost of millions, to keep the ocean out of the city. Roads are being elevated to keep them above the rising ocean level. The mayor tells about sunny day flooding in the city, and invites anyone to come visit, promising this will convince them the climate change deniers are wrong.
Another interesting tidbit in the film is a film clip from the 1958 educational film, “The Unchained Goddess,” which warns that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels could cause catastrophic warming of earth's climate. According to the film, the work of oceanographer Roger Revelle, who had written a paper the previous year about the ocean having a limited ability to absorb CO2, may have been a factor in the inclusion of the climate change warning in the film. Famed director Frank Capra, who wrote the screenplay, had studied chemical engineering in college. The film was one of four, including “Our Mr. Sun” produced by AT&T as the Bell Laboratory Science Series.
DiCaprio seems to squirm a bit when being confronted by Sunita Narain of the Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi, India. Narain makes it crystal clear that the United States will have no credibility as a leader in the climate change issue until it can lead by example. That would require fundamental shifts from the use fossil fuels in the U.S. This won't happen for years, it appears, since the fossil fuel industry is now setting federal policies.
Looking out the window of a helicopter flying over the Canadian tar sands developments, he says it looks like Mordor, from J.R.R. Tolkien's books about Middle Earth, adapted as the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. That is the way it looks, the destruction of boreal forests to make way for the very energy inefficient extraction of oil from sand, to be put into the controversial Keystone Pipeline.
The first half of the film states the problem, the second half lists solutions, including dietary choices like eating less beef (which uses a lot of land and creates a lot of methane, a dangerous climate-heating gas). Because of the solutions listed in the film, it isn't as depressing as it otherwise would be. This film rates a B.
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