Leonardo DiCaprio’s venture around the world in an effort to expose the disastrous effects of climate change in the National Geographic documentary, is commendable. In the documentary, Before The Flood, DiCaprio spoke with locals, professionals and powerful leaders such as Barack Obama and Pope Francis. Throughout his trip, DiCaprio witnessed firsthand the industrial pollution in Beijing, the clear cut ancient boreal forests in Canada, the incinerated rainforests in Indonesia and the rapidly melting glaciers in the Arctic.
DiCaprio’s passion for immediate change was inspiring. However, his sense of urgency was offset by a failure to probe further beneath the surface. At the end of the documentary, I couldn’t help but ask myself how exactly I was supposed to enact change for the environment. I was waiting for his recognition of animal agriculture as the top contributor of climate change.
My lack of clarity wasn’t misguided. Instead, it was a result of DiCaprio’s repeated confirmation of the evident problems followed by a doom-and-gloom phrased question. For instance, DiCaprio declared that the U.S. was the greatest emitter of greenhouse gas throughout history and how vital it was for people to help the developing world transition before it would be too late. This statement was then followed by “So, how do we fix this?”
Similarly, when discussing electrification all over the world, DiCaprio said our energy sources needed to be “different.” He ended with the question, “How can we possibly turn this all around?”
Halfway through the film, with no concrete, enactable solutions, I frankly became frustrated. DiCaprio’s apprehensive stares into the distance, though poignant, were well-suited for Hollywood, but not for the salvation of planet Earth.
Instead of probing deeper into animal agriculture, DiCaprio continued to educate viewers about the pressing issues: the fossil fuel industry; collapse of the coral reefs; melting of the Arctic; rising sea levels; and the solutions: sustainable energy alternatives; the carbon tax; and voting for the right politicians (seems we’ve reached the point of no return now that climate change nonbeliever, Donald Trump is now president). DiCaprio should have continued to expand upon Eshel’s proposed social reforms.
The ending frames, featuring consumer advice, says “It is up to all of us, consume differently, what you buy, what you eat,” a dramatic ending. While powerful in sentiment, DiCaprio would be sure to ignite change had he actually incited how to do it.
First and foremost, make an effort to reduce your consumption of animal products. This includes both meat and dairy products, since the industries work in conjunction with one another and release the majority of greenhouse gas emissions. Although many of the products we buy have palm oil in them, the only way to dismantle these large industries that dig for oil at the expense of our ecosystem is to stop buying their products. Try to cut back on your purchase of processed foods, produced by companies such as Doritos, Quaker and Kraft, and instead make homemade meals with locally grown produce — you can buy these at USC’s weekly farmer’s market. Try to purchase your groceries from neighborhood grocery stores, such as Yummy.com Neighborhood Market, Lassens and Trader Joe’s. When I buy a stalk of kale, for instance, I’ll keep half of the stalk in the refrigerator for salads and the other half in the freezer for smoothies. I store my bananas, spinach and mangos similarly. Similarly, I buy non-perishable foods in bulk, like almond milk, rice, oatmeal and nuts. A large bag of oatmeal usually lasts me an entire semester.
Now that we have the facts it is up to us to take action. While reducing your travel time, showers, food waste, trash and water usage are all great ways to lower your carbon footprint, nothing compares to the elimination of meat and dairy from your diet. Whatever step you take to get there is a step toward a grand solution for the reconstruction of our Earth, for its current inhabitants and for future generations.
Tessa Nesis is a a sophomore majoring in NGOs and social change. Her column, “The Sentient Bean,” runs on Thursdays.