Everyone’s favourite Hollywood philanthropist has helped grant climate change charities $100 million through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and its tireless work to save the world.
Though you can often see Leo in the movies, playing the finest and most complex roles Tinsel Town script writers have to offer, in actual fact, his most important role is one which plays out off-screen.
DiCaprio is on a mission – with the cunning of Frank Abagnale Jr., the money of Jordan Belfort, the perseverance of Hugh Glass, and the passion of Jack Dawson – to save us all from ourselves.
In 1998, when he was just 24 years old, Leonardo DiCaprio had achieved worldwide acclaim as an actor for his role in Titanic (1997), among other blockbusters, and was already able to enjoy the fame and fortune which followed.
You might think he’d put his feet up. But, clearly, the memory of that deadly iceberg stuck with him.
Instead the young thespian embarked on his greatest life achievement to date, and founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation with a view to ‘protecting the world’s last wild places and saving vulnerable wildlife from extinction’.
Today, DiCaprio turns 44 today. It’s 20 years since the foundation was first conceived.
To date, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has funder over 200 projects in 50 countries and five oceans, which support 132 organisations.
Moreover, the Foundation has awarded $100,000,000 in grant money to the people and organisations ‘on the front lines in every corner of the globe working to protect the earth and all of its inhabitants from climate change and the array of environmental crises it has created’.
Speaking at a 20th Anniversary Celebration of his foundation, DiCaprio said it started with the ‘simple idea’ of ‘getting critical funding to those who could have the greatest impact’ on the environment and ‘make a real difference’.
He continued to express his pride in ’20 years of this model’, adding:
Since 1998, we have supported over 200 projects on every continent and in every ocean from habitat and species conservation, renewable energy, climate change, indigenous rights, and more.
I am pleased to announce $11 million in new grants across our six program areas, bringing the total financial impact of LDF to over $100 million.
Some are quick to criticise DiCaprio for his lavish lifestyle, noting his use of private planes and jet-set existence isn’t conducive to lowering his own carbon footprint.
What critics fail to note though, is the battle against Earth’s destruction won’t be won by sanctimonious preaching, but rather all of us trying to do the best we can to make a better world for future generations.
For example, DiCaprio’s home is solar powered and he is a vegetarian – rumoured to be vegan – who shuns fossil-fuelled meat industries.
But his real impact can be felt on a much larger scale than his own personal – and private – life, having been instrumental in the success of the LDF over the past two decade of operation.
He has advocated for environmental reform in his roles on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund, Global Green USA, International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
DiCaprio has also chaired Earth Day celebrations, interviewing then-President Bill Clinton back in 2000, and publicly shining a spotlight on global warming, as well as how manmade pollutants are causing irreparable damage to the future of the Earth as we know it.
He urged the elite attendees of his 2013 fine art auction to fine art to ‘bid as if the fate of the planet depended’ on the $40 million raised towards his foundation; to this day it is the world’s highest-grossing environmental charity event ever held.
It was also a zero waste, sustainable event using 100 per cent renewable energy and locally sourced foods, in case you were wondering.
DiCaprio also used his Hollywood clout to educate the masses about the importance of protecting the Earth’s unique and majestic biodiversity, acting as co-producer, co-writer and narrator of the documentary The 11th Hour which aired in 2007.
You can watch the trailer below:
He backed Cowspiracy, the ground-breaking vegan documentary, and helped it get to Netflix and a vast audience whose perspective on the meat industry would be forever changed.
More recently, he also executive-produced and appeared in Before the Flood, a 2016 documentary film examining various aspects of global warming.
You can watch the trailer below:
In accepting his Best Actor award at the 2016 Oscars ceremony, DiCaprio stated:
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.
We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this.
For our children’s children, and for those people out there whose voices have been drowned out by the politics of greed.
He was given the honour of speaking at the UN Climate Leaders Summit in April 2016 in support of the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement under President Obama.
When the 45th President Donald Trump later extricated America from the agreement, to the critique of other public figures in environmental activism like David Attenborough, DiCaprio marched against the decision.
You can watch his powerful speech on YouTube:
DiCaprio has an estimated net worth of $245 million, of which he donates lump sums on top of his fundraising work often, including $1 million to relief efforts in Haiti after the earthquake and again after Hurricane Harvey.
He even flew over to Edinburgh to donate his time, for a fiver per applicant, to have dinner with a lucky fan in order to raise money for social initiatives supporting homeless people.
DiCaprio also stood in opposition to the palm oil industries of Indonesia, the Dakota Access pipeline set to destroy indigenous peoples’ lands.
More recently, he pledged to try and to prevent the extinction of the critically endangered vaquita – of which there are less than 30 left – and protect its native home in the waters of the Gulf of California.
DiCaprio has also joined the fight against plastic pollution.
Is there anything this man won’t do to save us all from ourselves? Happy birthday, Leo!
UNILAD has contacted the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for comment.
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A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you’ve never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.