I learned two major things watching Before The Flood:
- Leonardo DiCaprio’s parents really should have sprung for an interior decorator for his nursery.
- (North) Americans are goddamned hypocrites.
We all know the Earth is dying, and we’re the murderers. This is pre-meditated, Murder One, capital stuff. There won’t be any plea-bargaining at the end of the world because we’re guilty as sin.
We’ve seen this coming for 20 years or more. Unfortunately, climate change is accelerating at a greater rate than even predicted. We have very
real, very frightening present-day consequences as it is. But we’re still not making changes. Oh sure we’re willing to do the small stuff, like recycling, or using lower-watt light bulbs, or bringing reusable bags to the grocery store. But the big stuff? Oh man. Don’t ask us to change our lifestyles! We’re very attached to those.
I’m attached to it. I’ll admit it. I treasure my back yard, which is why I live nearly 40km away from my work, so my car guzzles gas to make that daily round trip. I also live away from my family and my in-laws, so we’re either travelling 272km or 840km roundtrip to visit them – or 2646km if it’s my baby sister. And that doesn’t begin to include the 3 or 4 trips I take every year by air. It feels almost commonplace now to be able to get on a plane and land anywhere in the world, but it’s a luxury in how absolutely wasteful it is, how much energy we consume to travel long-distance. I know this. I feel guilty about it. But I’m still going to Hawaii in 3 weeks.
As privileged North Americans, we create 13 times as much ecological damage as someone in Brazil. One American consumes as many resources as 35 Indians, and 53 times more goods and services than someone from China. The sad fact is, we depend on the poor staying poor. If the people of India, China, and Africa caught up to our consumption rates, the Earth would already be dead, and so would we. “Luckily”, poverty has stopped them from even accessing the kinds of resources that we have at our fingertips. If everyone had a light bulb in their home, a washing machine, a car in the driveway, a heat source for cooking…well, we’d be doomed. But the thing about developing nations is that they are in fact developing. They are making headway. They’re getting closer and closer to attaining our level of lifestyle everyday, and we’re PANICKING. We know it spells our demise. So we plead with them: don’t bother with coal or fossil fuels, go straight to solar power, India! Hey Kenya – why not go solar? Why not? Well, because those things cost more. Which is why we still haven’t adopted them ourselves. We’re the wealthiest countries and the most able to absorb those costs, but we haven’t. We do not practice what we preach.
Fisher Stevens directs an urgent but humble documentary that keeps climate change advocate Leonardo DiCaprio front and centre, even as he questions his own credentials, and laments his carbon footprint.
Just a decade ago we saw America start a war over oil. In a not very distant future, those same wars could be fought over water. We’re already seeing climate change refugees – people forced to leave their homes because flooding or other “natural” disasters prompted by global warming. This won’t just be about the environment. This will quickly become an issue for national security.
There is hope. There are things we could and should be doing. You and I share a responsibility to lead by example. We need to start making wiser choices now, because we will be judged by future generations, and we need to decide whether we want to be lauded by them, or vilified.
National Geographic cares so much about this issue that it has made Before The Flood available for streaming for free. You can watch it here: