By Kate Helen.
It was the death of a million memes. Twenty-two years and five nominations after he made his first appearance as a nominee at the Academy Awards, Leonardo DiCaprio was named the 2016 Oscar Winner for Best Actor. The Hollywood heavyweight took home the award for his role in the movie The Revenant, in which he played Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the 1820s who undertakes a long and arduous journey for revenge after surviving a brutal mauling by a bear. Leo took the stage to accept his long-awaited award amid roaring applause before using his acceptance speech to encourage action on clean energy and climate change.
Worth the Wait
Leonardo DiCaprio was 19 years old when he received his first Oscar nomination for his supporting role in the film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, which he lost to Tommy Lee Jones. He rocketed to international superstardom three years later thanks to Titanic, yet Academy Award success still eluded him. He received Oscar nominations for his roles in 2004’s The Aviator, 2006’s Blood Diamond and 2013’s The Wolf of Wall Street, but fell short each time, each loss adding fuel to one of the Internet’s longest-running memes: Leo DiCaprio and the Oscar that got away.
But then he won, and instead of taking the stage to engage in a bit of well-earned basking, Leo used the opportunity to shine a light on a range of issues from climate change to corporate greed to the protection of indigenous peoples. Calling climate change “the most urgent threat facing our entire species,” DiCaprio noted that production on his film “needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow.” He urged viewers to support leaders who will take action on the issue and stand up to corporate greed and pollution before exiting to a roar of applause.
Leonardo DiCaprio: Eco-Warrior
While it’s become popular in recent years for celebrities to lend their names to various environmental causes, the roots of Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental activism go a little deeper than most. Leo traces his activism to a 1998 meeting with Al Gore in the White House, which prompted the founding of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and set DiCaprio on a course toward becoming one of Hollywood’s most outspoken voices on matters of climate change, clean energy and environmental protection. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation offers grants for various initiatives, participates in public campaigns and supports widespread efforts aimed at ocean and wildland conservation, climate change and biodiversity protection.
DiCaprio and his foundation have partnered with a range of organizations, including The Solutions Project, Oceans 5, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society, to fund and organize environmental projects. As part of the Divest-Invest movement, Leo has also pledged to pull any personal investments related to fossil fuels and reinvest in clean, sustainable power. In 2014, he was named a United Nations representative on climate change, and in 2016, his work on humanitarian and environmental initiatives earned him the prestigious Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Leaving a Legacy
While Leo DiCaprio remains most recognized for his film roles, it’s his work as an environmental and humanitarian advocate that may leave the most lasting legacy. One of Leo’s greatest passions is clean energy, and he’s worked to hasten the transition to more renewable forms of energy both in Hollywood and around the world. DiCaprio has worked with various organizations to support a movement toward 100 percent renewable energy, but the results have been slow to come. According to Ohio Gas, the United States currently receives about 13 percent of its energy generation from renewable sources, making up about 9.8 percent of the energy consumed nationally. Of these renewable sources, biomass accounts for 50 percent and hydroelectric represents another 26 percent.
The 2016 Oscars may have been Leonardo DiCaprio‘s biggest audience yet, but his activism on climate change and other issues has been decades in the making. While some have rightly criticized DiCaprio for his massive carbon footprint – including several large mansions, frequent private jet flights and the fifth-largest private yacht in the world – there’s no denying that Leo has used his tremendous popularity and platform to spread the message of clean energy, environmental conservation and climate change action. No matter how many more awards he racks up for his actions on the silver screen, his tireless work as an activist may be his role of a lifetime.
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