Leonardo Dicaprio's Journey Towards Environmental Activism

Updated on May 10, 2019
Ifrah Bashir profile image

An environmentalist by profession and a nature lover by passion, I aspire to make a change by spreading the message across through this.

Leonardo DiCaprio addressing the third Our Oceans conference in Washington, 2016.
Leonardo DiCaprio addressing the third Our Oceans conference in Washington, 2016. | Source

Leonardo DiCaprio's Inspiration to Work Towards Climate Change

An Oscar-winning actor who has used his fame and popularity for the greater cause of safeguarding our earth from the challenges of climate change, Leonardo DiCaprio was born in Los Angeles on November 11th, 1974. From a very young age, he was deeply concerned about the extinction of species due to man-made activities, and this was what inspired his journey towards getting involved in environmental issues. However, it was only after his meeting with the former vice president Al Gore in his early 20s that he was really inspired to take action on the "most important crisis facing humanity today."

It was from this point onward that he stepped up his environmental activism by educating himself more on climate change, traveling to locations that are on the front lines of climate change and starting to establish himself as one of the world’s top climate change champions.

He has been working towards educating and inspiring the public, key decision makers and world leaders on critical environmental issues, achieving the following milestones along the way.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (1998)

Leonardo DiCaprio founded the LDF with the mission of “protecting the Earth’s last wild places and saving vulnerable wildlife from extinction” along with raising awareness and knowledge of various environmental problems to the general public. It also supports projects around the world that build climate resiliency, protects vulnerable wildlife from extinction, and restores balance of the threatened ecosystems and communities. Since that time, he has been continuously active on these issues and worked towards developing relationships with some of world's greatest leaders and environmentalists.

“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"

— DiCaprio, using his Oscar acceptance speech to voice his concerns over climate change

2. “The Eleventh Hour” Documentary (2007)

After four years of developing LDF, he produced his first feature-length documentary “The Eleventh Hour” in which more than fifty scientists, environmental activists, and world leaders were interviewed so as to ascertain the global environmental issues such as global warming, deforestation, mass extinction of species and the grave danger they pose for the planet and its inhabitants. Apart from this, visionary and practical solutions are also discussed in great detail to protect the ecosystem from further damage.

3. First Large-Scale Conservation Grant (2010)

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation donated $1 Million and partnered with the World Wide Fund in 2010 to expand a tiger conservation project in Terai Arc of Nepal. Since then, due to successful community-driven conservation activities along with forest restoration efforts, the number of tigers have increased from 3200 in 2010 to 3890 at present, according to W.W.F. Apart from this, LDF has worked towards restoring corridors of Brazil’s Atlantic forest along with acquiring key forest areas in Colombia and northwest Ecuador.


4. Sharks Listed under CITES (2013)

Shark population is declining rapidly around the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund, around 25% of all the 494 sharks and rays inhabiting the coastal continental shelves are threatened with extinction. Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation's support brought about the coalition of seven organizations to help secure new protection for five species of endangered sharks by restoring populations and halting the overexploitation of sharks and rays, under the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).


5. $7 Million Pledged for Ocean Conservation (2014)

According to the IUCN, oceans cover about 70% of the earth and support an incredible variety of life. It provides over half of the world’s oxygen and aids in regulating our climate and weather pattern by transporting heat from the equator to the poles. LDF is working towards protecting 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030 through the creation and expansion of MPA's (Marine Protected Areas). WWF describes MPA as “An area designated and effectively managed to protect marine ecosystems, processes, habitats, and species, which can contribute to the restoration and replenishment of resources for social, economic, and cultural enrichment”.

LDF pledged a total of $7 million in funding for marine conservation initiatives in 2014 at the “Our Oceans” conference hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry. This has paved the way for the LDF partners to work with indigenous groups, international organizations and local coalitions to secure more than 1.6 million square kilometers of MPA’s.

6. U.N. Climate Leader's Summit (2014)

Leonardo DiCaprio was appointed to serve as the United Nations messenger of peace for climate by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the United Nations Climate Summit, 2014. At this occasion, Leonardo DiCaprio addressed one of the largest gatherings of government, business and civil society leaders in history and urged them all to stop treating global warming as “fiction”. Furthermore, he also emphasized the need to take collective action on what is “humankind's greatest challenge at present”. This speech managed to reach over one billion people through news articles and the U.N. website across the globe.

Furthermore, he also took part in the People’s Climate March among the other 400,000 people through the streets of New York. This action had a particular effect of drawing millions of people’s attention to the escalating climate crisis.

Leonardo DiCaprio's speech at the 2014 UN Climate Summit

7. $15 Million in Grants Awarded (2015)

“The destruction of our planet continues at a pace we can no longer afford to ignore,” said Leonardo DiCaprio. “I am proud to support these organizations who are working to solve humankind’s greatest challenge.”

In a continued effort to help tackle some of the worlds most pressing environmental issues through funding organizations working towards cutting edge conservation projects dedicated to protecting the future of the earth, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gave away $15 Million in grants at New York. These organizations work in diverse areas such as ocean conservation, wildlife and habitat protection, indigenous rights, sustainable solutions, and climate change.

The list of organizations receiving the funding are as follows:

  • Amazon Watch
  • Biomimicry Institute
  • Bioneers
  • ClearWater
  • Conservation International
  • Dark Snow
  • Digital Democracy
  • Earth Echo International
  • Empowered by Light
  • International Fund for Animal Welfare
  • National Geographic: Pristine Seas
  • Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Save The Elephants
  • Tree People
  • Virunga Fund
  • Water Keeper
  • Wildlife Conservation Society
  • The Solutions Project
  • The Conservation Land Trust
  • California Wolf Center: Pacific Wolf Coalition
  • Wildlife Conservation Network
  • Tetiaroa Society
  • Saving Species
  • Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund
  • World Wildlife Fund

8. Launch of the Planet Pledge Fund (2016)

LDF invested up to $10 billion exclusively in clean development projects to directly mitigate climate change and restore the Earth’s most vital ecosystems.

9. “Before The Flood” Documentary (2016)

A groundbreaking documentary on climate change by Leonardo DiCaprio, “Before the flood” takes us on a journey around the globe to witness the impacts of global warming and the significant effect this phenomenon has on climate change. From depicting the alarming rate at which the Arctic ice is melting to the burning down of vast swathes of tropical forests in order to create palm oil plantations, the documentary uses stunning aerial footage to show the devastating effects of climate change and managed to pin down the message to more than 60 million people worldwide on National Geographic channels. Furthermore, the film bagged the honor of achieving more than 60 million views in just 3 months, making it one of the most watched documentaries in history.

By capturing a range of conversations Leonardo DiCaprio has with some of the renewed scientists, politicians, activists, NGO’s and the local people who are bearing the consequences in the form of changing weather patterns, ‘Before the flood’ aims to instill a sense of urgency in the people around the globe by warning them of the devastating effects of climate change and mankind’s potential to reverse it.

10. Over $15 Million in New Commitments (2016)

“We simply cannot afford to allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity”.

These were the words of Leonardo DiCaprio while addressing the world economic forum in Switzerland at the Crystal Awards as he shared his concerns about how the climate crisis is disturbing the natural balance of the earth. He announced that his foundation would be giving an additional $15 million in funds to in order to fast-track cutting-edge sustainability and conservation projects around the world.

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© 2019 Ifrah Bashir


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    • Rock_nj profile image

      John Coviello 

      16 months ago from New Jersey

      Well written article about Leonardo DiCaprio's environmentalism. Very interesting to read how involved he is in the environmental movement. Keep up the good work!

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      16 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Ifrah welcome to HubPages and than you for sharing this wonderful article. Leonardo Dicaprio is a wonderful ambassador for climate change and protection of wildlife and the environment. He leads by example and puts his money where his mouth is. Good job.


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