Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the world’s most famous actors and also a fervent environmentalist, was born November 11, 1974. Over the past two decades, DiCaprio has used his celebrity fame to bring attention—intense attention—to the world’s major environmental issues, especially climate change.
DiCaprio was born and raised in Los Angeles. He claims that from his first memories he was captured by an environmental image. His parents hung a poster of a famous painting over his crib—Hieronymus Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. The painting represents the beauty and largess of Eden, followed by the disastrous fate of Adam and Eve and their descendants for not nurturing it. Over the years, he came to understand the painting as a metaphor for the environmental damage that humans were causing to the earth.
DiCaprio has gone on to enormous success as an actor, of course, winning the 2016 Oscar for Best Actor and becoming one of Hollywood’s biggest box-office draws. But, he asserts, love of nature and concern for the environment have always been part of his true persona. “I remember the thing that I got the most sad about when I was little was the loss of species that have been as a result of mankind’s intrusion on nature,” he told Rolling Stone Magazine.
He got serious about making a difference after a meeting with former Vice-President Al Gore. In 1998, he created the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation “with the mission of protecting the world’s last wild places.” Today the foundation works across a range of environmental issues, including protected areas and climate change. It has given more than $80 million in grants (at least $30 million of DiCaprio’s own money) to projects in 50 nations. His social-media presence on environmental matters reaches more than 50 million people. In 2007, he wrote, produced and narrated a feature-length documentary, The 11th Hour, in which he interviews world leaders on environmental issues.
For his work, DiCaprio has been designated a UN Messenger of Peace for Climate Change and won the Clinton Global Citizen Award. He serves on the board of the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and several other groups.
DiCaprio says that he is “consumed by [environmental issues]. There isn’t a couple of hours a day where I’m not thinking about it. It’s not ‘aliens invading our planet next week,’ but it’s this inevitable thing, and it’s so terrifying,” he told Rolling Stone. Amid that fear, however, he works to stay optimistic. He continues to use his acting fame as access to people with the power to make positive change. For example, he was present at the signing of the Paris Climate Agreement, recognizing the treaty as a positive step toward a sustainable future without reliance on fossil fuels.
Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. About Us. Available at: https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/about/. Accessed November 10, 2017.
Rodrick, Stephen. 2016. Inside Leonardo DiCaprio’s Crusade to Save the World. Rolling Stone Magazine, February 18, 2016. Available at: http://www.rollingstone.com/movies/features/inside-leonardo-dicaprios-crusade-to-save-the-world-20160218#ixzz41ZKd1Lf7. Accessed November 10, 2017.
World Wildlife Fund. Leonardo DiCaprio. Available at: https://www.worldwildlife.org/leaders/leonardo-dicaprio. Accessed November 10, 2017.