Before the Flood

Luke Lindsey, Staff Writer

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Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary, “Before the Flood,” highlights the issue of Global Warming, the indifference and apathy concerning the issue, and its devastating effects. The documentary opens with a memory of DiCaprio’s childhood, when he would lay in his crib and stare at this painting by Hieronymus Bosch named “The Garden Of Earthly Delights.” The painting is sectioned into four different pieces that fold in on each other. When opened, three sections are visible and one section on the back is hidden from view (Sort of like a pamphlet). On the left, there is the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve are sitting down and seem to be peacefully conversing with God. The middle section shows an overpopulated, miserable world with a doomed and depressing sort of mood. The last section on the right shows a hell-like world with extreme overpopulation, and anarchy: a world with imminent destruction in its fate. “We are in that middle stage” as DiCaprio puts it.

There was a time when we were completely unaware of the effects we had on the environment; a time when we would inhabit a land, and hunt the most abundant animal. Innocently ignorant to exactly what we were doing, we would hunt these animals until they went extinct. The negative effects we have on the environment grow increasingly serious as the human population explodes. From wiping out entire species, to extreme pollution and deforestation, we are destroying not only ourselves, but our home as well. The only difference between the past and the present is now we are aware of our destructive behavior, yet continue living the way we do.

Our habits are melting ice worldwide. DiCaprio reveals that the polar icecaps are melting at an alarming rate. It is estimated that by 2020, you could drive a boat straight through the north pole. In Greenland, the ice stored on land is melting and flooding into the seas. In the past five years, 30 feet of cubic ice has melted. All of this excess water has been flooding into the seas and causing the sea levels to rise. Later on in the documentary, he travels back to the United States and visits Miami, Florida. There, the Governor has enacted a 400 million dollar project to combat the effect of the rising sea levels which they have nicknamed “Sunny Day Flooding.” During this odd event that occurs only on the most perfect sunny days, water begins to rise through the underground water systems and up from the sea. The flooding is so extensive, one would be better off kglobal-warming2ayaking through the city rather than driving a car. The project is to raise the street levels and install pumps to push water back out to sea. The Governor said it would only buy them time before another course of action will have to be taken. 40 to 50 years of time. 400 million dollars that could be used to tackle the source of the issue rather than prevent its consequences.

Sadly, Florida politicians have been banned from using the term “Climate Change,” “Global Warming,” or “Sustainability”  by Miami officials in any form of public speaking and online. This alone has affected reports, educational efforts, and public policy in an organization worth 1.4 million dollars and employs 3,400 people. A DEP official was contacted via email about the policy by the Miami Herald and denied its existence; other officials admit it is a policy that has been enacted state wide and said the word has been spread verbally. This policy restricts the governor’s ability to properly inform the public.

America has the ability to switch  to a cleaner and more reliable energy source, but fuel is cheap and is a billion dollar business. Why would we put a stop to something generating such a profit? What would be the right choice? “Before the Flood” then turns its audience’s eyes to China, known for being the world’s leading polluter. Many people do not realize that this nation is also leading the transition to clglobal-warming-3eaner energy sources. The air quality is so poor, that people frequently wear masks to filter what they breathe. “You don’t need a lab coat or a clip board to see that they have an issue,” DiCaprio mentioned. China has dug themselves a hole, but are slowly and surely climbing out of it. To tackle the issue, people in power are cracking down on regulations regarding pollution mainly in factories. Social media is used to inform the public of who’s following regulations and who’s ignoring them. Consequently, companies are quickly changing their habits to cleaner ways of operating and obtaining energy to maintain a good reputation. “You get information to the people, you empower people,” a Chinese official stated.

The documentary does work to reassure us that many other countries are making the transition to cleaner energy sources, but some faster than others. Although many countries wish to make this change, some are incapable or are having major difficulties. There are more people living without power in India than there are people currently living in The US. That is 324,118,787 people having to burn whatever they can to cook their food and to keep warm. 324.2 million people are struggling to preserve the food they have and to come by water. India is almost forced by its circumstances to burn cheap and available
fossil fuels to keep its country going. Although they have this huge block, they are still making massive efforts to transition considering their situation. So what’s taking us so long? This disturbing question echoes throughout the course of the film.

Americans are one of the top consumers of energy in the world. Although this issue may look like a mountain to climb, there are steps we could take to make this trek just a walk in the park. Politicians and environmentalists in the US have proposed an idea that just might work: a simple carbon tax that taxes anything which produces carbon dioxide. This may seem like a horrible idea, more money from our pockets? Actually, enacting this tax will enable the government to lower other taxes. By doing this, they bring in the same revenue and we give the same amount, but we are more likely not to purchase Co2 emitting products. We’d basically be paying the same amount of taxes, but we’re pointed towards a cleaner way of living. The tax has been denied in the past, but there are people fighting for it. You could play a role in the transition as well by lowering your carbon footprint. This could be accomplished by simply carpooling or driving less, eating less red meats, or simply just by changing your lightbulbs to be more energy efficient like the media encouraged in the early 2000s. We can combat this, but we must come together.

At the conclusion of the documentary, DiCaprio flips the painting for us, and shows us a different perspective. We see a globe, a new world where everyone is living happily in a place where the air is cleaner, the sky is a bit more blue, and we no longer have to worry about the health of our planet because we treat it with care. This can be achieved. The world is not our own; we’re just borrowing it from the next generation. Lets leave it cleaner than when we received it. Joe Raedle

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