The wolf who turned philanthropist: Celebrating Leonardo DiCaprio on his 42nd birthday


Be it a young man breaking class barriers and sacrificing for true love, or a megalomaniac businessman on Wall Street imbibing a life of ultimate decadence, Leonardo DiCaprio’s ability to slide smoothly into any kind of role speaks volumes about the many facets to the Academy Award-winning actor. 2016 has been a crucial year for the actor. Following his Oscar win for his role in The Revenant, he also launched Before the Flood, an advocacy documentary examining climate change around the world. And, he did this with the day of the US Presidential Elections just right around the corner.

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“We cannot afford, at this critical moment in time, to have leaders in office that do not believe in the modern science of climate change… And that’s why we wanted this film to come out before the next election, because as we’ve cited in this film, the United States is the largest contributor to this issue. We need to set the example for the rest of the world to follow,” he said in a Q&A session at TIFF.

Although many would wave this off as a strategically brilliant move by Leo’s PR team, the truth is that our favourite Wolf of Wall Street is quite the philanthropist at heart. A passionate environmentalist and champion for social change, Leo established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating awareness about environmental issues. Involved in projects in over 40 countries, the Foundation has funded dozens of organizations propagating health-care and environment sustainability. These include names like Oceans 5, Amazon Watch, World Wildlife Fund, Save the Elephants, and California Wolf Center.

Over the past 12 years, Leo has worked relentlessly to spread awareness on creating a sustainable environment. Using the stage of his foundation as a public forum, he produced a number of media projects to relay the urgency of key issues that are detrimental to the environment in general. These included two short web films, Water Planet and Global Warming. In 2007, he released his first hard-hitting feature length documentary called The 11th Hour which, over the span of an hour and 35 minutes, deals with inputs from the world’s leading experts on environmental issues. It addresses key causes and exciting solutions to issues that are harming the environment. Out of these, Leo has taken a personal interest in climate change and used various platforms, including his own website, various social media outlets, and even his acceptance speech during the Oscars, to speak about this pertinent issue.

“Climate change is real, it is happening right now, it is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating,” he had said.

According to The Guardian, Leo has spent at least $30 million in funding over the past few years to help the United Nations advance their efforts in climate negotiations, protect coral reefs and tigers and spread public awareness about the dangers of climate change. Believing more in the bite than the bark, Leo shut down criticism regarding the “hypocrisy” of his lavish lifestyle in terms of carbon footprint and climate change by marching with 4,00,000 protestors through the streets of Manhattan to address the UN about the dangers of climate change, in 2014. He has a staff of professionals who can teach and advise him on matters related to climate change, and he constantly travels to locations that are on the frontline of climate change.

For Before the Flood, the actor reportedly travelled for two years, accumulating proof, data, and professional opinion for climate change.

“People like Leonardo DiCaprio have such access to people, it is amazing. When people hear him talk so forcefully and clearly about a particular issue then people listen. I am very glad that he did that,” said Janos Pasztor, personal advisor on climate change to UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon.

Since 2014, Leo has been a common face at almost all events dealing in environmental issues, especially in the ones by the UN. His prowess in the fight for a sustainable environment won him the Environmental Leadership Award from Global Green USA back in 2003. In 2014, it earned him the title of UN Messenger for Peace.

DiCaprio’s foundation also donated $3 million in 2014 to stop overfishing, $3 million to protect tigers in Nepal and funding Sala’s initiative to create marine reserves in the Pacific. On the pressing issue of climate change, Leo’s Before The Flood has personal interviews with the people who can actually make a difference, like President Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Pope Francis and Ban Ki-Moon. In this eye-opening documentary regarding the dangers of climate change that the earth is petering towards, we see Leo in the role he chooses much higher over than the one that got him to where he is – of an environmentalist.

In an interview with the Rolling Stone, he said, “I am consumed by this. There isn’t a couple of hours a day where I’m not thinking about it. It’s this slow burn. It’s not ‘aliens invading our planet next week and we have to get up and fight to defend our country,’ but it’s this inevitable thing, and it’s so terrifying.”

As our favourite Wolf turns 42 today, we support him in his efforts to battle the various social and climatic challenges that are plaguing our lives every day. The battle to stop the iceberg from melting is on, and this time, our bet’s on Jack. Happy birthday, Leo!