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“Before the Flood” is more than just another film on climate change. Leonardo DiCaprio guides the viewers through his own personal experience as UN Ambassador of Peace discovering the science behind climate change and its impact on everyday people across the globe. For me, having studied Environmental Science in college the drama of climate change was so commonly talked about that watching this film did not have the sense of novelty that many of the viewers would feel. However, because of my familiarity with the topic I can say that “Before the Flood” addresses many of the issues with climate change that others have avoided and as a whole it provides the most complete and positive collection of science, policy and personal stories I have seen outside of in-class/in-depth discussions between climate scientists.

Oroville Lake in California Before and After

Climate change is complicated, and that is one of the first things we learned as Environmental Scientists. Our world is a huge web of cause and effects that we really don’t fully understand. From food chains that exist in our own backyards to the ocean currents and El Nino, our world is so incredibly beautiful, fragile and complex that scientists are still discovering things! And this is true of climate change, there are many factors that can directly speed up climate change. But just because there are so many factors in this incredibly complex system does not mean that humans have no impact on the environment. It also does not mean that we won’t be able to change anything for better (or worse). “Before the Flood” presents this idea by following Leonardo DiCaprio’s travels through Florida, Sumatra, Greenland, Canada, Paris and many other important areas in the world to climate change. For me as a scientist, it was especially powerful to see him visit Greenland and talk with the scientists who work there about the receding ice sheets. It was so extreme of a difference in just five years and was such a first hand glimpse of the changing climate.

“Before the Flood” also addressed the common misunderstanding about climate change: we are doomed! This particular perspective Leonardo DiCaprio handled with a great deal of sensitivity and care. In the interview with President Obama and again in an interview with a former astronaut, they discuss the reversible and irreversible damage we’ve done to our planet. And in spite of the damage done to the world (ice sheets melting, islands

Damage made by man made wildfires also impact CO2. Photo Credit: Sandor Havasi

disappearing, forests being burnt to the ground, people becoming environmental refugees, etc.), all of those interviewed have hope. They have hope and believe that we can make a change and a difference if we respond appropriately to the causes and symptoms of climate change. Yes, we have done a lot of damage, yes there may be animals and environments that will never be the same again, yes there will be consequences for our actions. . . But we can change, we can make a difference, we can be more thoughtful, we can work together to use our resources, our technology and our own efforts to stop the consequences facing us tomorrow from being worse!

One of the things which stood out to me most was the idea of our need as a whole humankind to respond. This is not a one time thing or a personal agenda. The fate of the planet is our collective success or our collective failure. We need to work together to slow down the process of warming and use the technology and resources available to us to decrease our impact. We need to think about our stewardship of our planet, our resources for us and our future generations. It is true there isn’t an instant fix but anything we do will be far better than nothing. And it is true that we really don’t understand our impact but as humans we should look out for one another and our planet. We can save or destroy the world we live in.

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What are we at Havasi Wilderness Foundation Doing?

  • We have been doing our share by obtaining solar roof several years ago so that our electric bill is $1 per month

  • We live in an area that voted not to have street lights so are streets at night are dark

  • We watch what we eat and lean toward being more vegetarian and having sustainable resources for food

  • We are now going to put in an electric water heater

  • We have a portable solar generator in case of an emergency

  • We recycle our dish water and handcarry every bucket out to help any plants or trees everyday

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