March 13, 2016
By Kathleen Mannard
The Oscars serve not only as a prestigious ceremony for Hollywood but also as a platform for celebrities to express their activism. In the past, several Academy award winners have used their acceptance speeches to addresses injustices. For example, in 1973 Marlon Brando denounced his Oscar win for Best Actor in The Godfather. Native American Sacheen Littlefeather represented Brando on his behalf to protest Native American representation in films. In 2015, Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to champion for American women’s rights to equal pay. Actors have a privilege of recognition by millions of people and Oscar night presents the opportunity to speak on important matters to those people.
This year, Leonardo DiCaprio was favored to win in the 88th Annual Academy Awards for his Best Actor role in The Revenant. The storm of Internet memes surrounding his nomination sparked major support for a long-awaited win. We know DiCaprio as the esteemed celebrity but often overlook his long-time career impact for environmental justice. We were reminded of his advocacy during his acceptance speech when he spoke on climate change:
“Climate change is real. It is happening right now. It’s the most urgent threat facing our entire species and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this. For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.”
Upon researching his activism, I learned of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a humanitarian foundation founded by DiCaprio in 1998 that works on some of the world’s most prevalent environmental issues. LDF works in protecting biodiversity, the effects and prevention of climate change, and with the ocean and wildlife conservation. Focusing on the long-term health of Earth and its living species, LDF supports more than 65 organizations around the world to help their mission. DiCaprio uses his name and status to gain attention to the pressing issues of climate change. More importantly, he helps to establish and support global projects for human rights and livelihood. Educating ourselves of social and environmental rights is the first course of action. Issues such as equal pay and fair representation are intertwined with bolstering a healthy environment. We need to see all humans as equals to help the underprivileged, preserve our world and species, and act for all of humanity.
Leo DiCaprio is by no means the only environmental activist but his speech and mission show that climate change is a highly pertinent global issue in which we need to cooperate and speak for each other for current and future sustainable conditions. The more people who are aware and educated on the facts, the closer we are to change.
For more information on his mission and ways to educate and help, visit leonardodicaprio.org