Leonardo DiCaprio is no doubt best known
for his romantic leading man roles: the passionate artist-adventurer
who dies to save the woman he loves in Titanic...
the charismatic charmer of Catch Me of You Can...
and perhaps the most romantic fictional character of all time, Romeo
in Romeo & Juliet.
But Leo's passion is not confined to beautiful women on the silver screen.
He's had a ongoing love affair with our beautiful but fragile
planet Earth since childhood,
embracing and speaking out for
environmental awareness whenever he could.
he founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Charitable Foundation,
an organization that gives grants to charitable organizations
which make a difference to the
future of the Earth.
is now devoted to helping the environment on a worldwide level.
This year alone, Leonardo has been honored with
Star Eco Station
Celebrity For the Environment Award,
Martin Litton Environmental Warrior Award, the
Green Cross International and Global Green USA
Entertainment Industry Environmental Leadership Award.
As national chairman of Earth Day 2000, he gave a moving speech:
"Ever since I was a little kid, environmental issues have sparked my
Let me start off by saying that the problem with doing a speech on the
environment is that there is so much to say about so many issues.
So let me first take a step back and tell a story that comes from my family.
My grandfather who lived in Germany told me this story.
It was about an industrialist who owned the coalmine that my grandfather
worked for. When the town demanded that the mine owner build a
smokestack high enough to prevent smoke soot from overwhelming the
town, he reluctantly agreed.
During the construction though, he proclaimed that the stacks should
not be built too high as it would be sacrilege if they were built
higher than the town's church steeple and of course conveniently
would save him money.
Eventually he lived to regret that decision.
Not only did all his workers get sick, including my grandfather,
but he also ruined the ecology of the town.
That shortsighted industrialist only took into account the
monetary cost. And had to eventually pay a much higher price -
the hidden environmental cost.
Since that time, problems have compounded.
According to scientists throughout the world, we are on a downward
Our fresh water and oceans are being polluted, soils are eroding,
rivers are running dry, wetlands are disappearing, fisheries are
collapsing, rangelands are deteriorating, temperatures are rising,
coral reefs are dying, and not since a meteor hit the Earth 65 million
years ago have so many species of plants and animals become extinct in
such a short time.
How did we get to this point?
Quite simply, by making the same mistakes as that industrialist did by
building his short smokestacks. With the ever increasing population and
the constant need to tap into our planet's nonrenewable resources,
we are quite frankly creating our own scenario for disaster.
Which brings us to the solution, clean energy now - the theme of this
year's Earth Day.
The problem is we are pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere
much faster than the land and seas can absorb it, the accumulating
gas is trapping heat and upsetting the world's climate.
It only took five to nine degrees to bring us out of the last ice age.
Five to nine degrees.
Now a couple of degrees difference in today's temperatures
may seem insignificant, but again five to nine degrees is
all that separates us from catastrophic change.
We must break this cycle now.
And it must be a clean break.
The industrialist and my grandfather could probably never
envision a time where we could produce energy without smokestacks
But today we have technologies that allow us to use renewable fuel
sources. Solar technologies are real, proven and in use now, wind power
is a mature technology with a successful track record, and the hydrogen
economy is the wave of the future.
But unless we insist upon their use, technologies like these will never
have a chance to develop and will never become a part of everyday life.
The United States is only 8% of the world's population but we produce
40% of the world's waste and because of this, experts say it would take
two new worlds in addition to our own to provide enough resources for
everyone to maintain a living standard equal to that of North Americans.
Two new worlds...
Enough is enough.
We must set an example now and move environmentalism from being the
philosophy of a passionate minority like everyone here at Earth Day
to a way of life that automatically integrates ecology into governmental
policy and normal living standards.
We are entering an environmental age whether we like it or not.
As we progress into the twenty-first century, anyone who considers
themselves a realist will have to make the environment a top priority.
Our planet's alarm is going off, and it is time to wake up and take