Thursday, November 03, 2016
Before the Flood
Last evening I watched the documentary about climate change called Before the Flood. It is a National Geographic production and the Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio is in virtually every frame as narrator. DiCaprio is the United Nations Ambassador for Peace and he spoke to the UN Climate Summit in 2014. He travels around the world in the doc to places where the effects of climate change is most evident, everywhere from Greenland to tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean.
The response to the doc has been mixed with the suggestion that there isn't much that is new here. which is true. I was struck by film footage from 1958 --nearly 60 years ago -- of a scientist attempting to explain greenhouse gases and global warming in an accessible way. Obviously the scientific community has been aware of the grim realities of changing climate for far longer a decade or two. We were also told that about a billion people are sustained by marine creatures, including fish, which live in and near coral reefs. We have been told that reefs are dying, bleached by climate change. This isn't just a sad reality for the Great Barrier reef, and others, it could result in a human catastrophe.
I would recommend the film, and it is available to watch free, online, for the next few days.What I found unsettling in Before The Flood is the use of yet another celebrity as a spokesperson for an important cause, someone of considerable wealth who jets here and there to movie sets and travels the planet looking at the effects of flying and other activities of the privileged few. One spokesperson from a Pacific island pointed out that those who have the least effect on the climate are already paying the price. Another spokesperson from India did call DiCaprio and Americans out on this, and he suggested that those in wealthy countries aren't likely to change their lifestyles so advances in technology will be the answer. I don't think this is good enough.
I was intrigued by the name of the documentary which is, as it sounds, related to the Genesis story of Noah and the flood. DiCaprio had a poster of the Hieronymous Bosch triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights above his crib (crazy!) when he was a child. It features the Garden of Eden in one panel, a pre-deluvian world in the centre, and a post-apocalyptic nightmare on the other. DiCaprio uses these biblical images as a cautionary mythology to apply to our present reality and the choices we make. I do think that as people of faith from different traditions, including Christianity must lead the way on simplifying our lives and demanding that governments create policies which will make a difference. DiCaprio visited the Alberta tar sands and it was a reminder that Canada must do more.