“These facts have been presented time and again, year after year, for decades,” DiCaprio says. “Quite simply, we are knowingly doing this to ourselves."
Leonardo DiCaprio is more than just a leading man in some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. Along with being a writer and producer, he’s also an outspoken activist ringing the alarm bells of the catastrophe to befall us, should we ignore our role in global warming. DiCaprio himself has been a long-time advocate for the environment, and sits on the board of many prominent organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
He’s also traveled the world speaking on climate change and is currently a UN messenger of peace. He even brought up climate change in his acceptance speech, when he finally won an Oscar last year for his role in The Revenant. In addition, he’s made two speeches to the UN, one in 2014 and another earlier this year.
At a two-day conference that just wrapped up on Tuesday at Yale University, he announced The Leonardo DiCaprio foundation was committing $20 million dollars in grants to 100 nonprofits working to fight climate change. The foundation has six programs. They are: Wildlife and Landscape Conservation, Climate Change, Indigenous Rights, Innovative Solutions, Marine and Ocean Conservation, and Transforming California. Up until now, the foundation has had a direct financial impact of $80 million, which DiCaprio himself raised.
DiCaprio talked about global warming during his Oscar speech. Getty Images.
The event at Yale was hosted by the Kerry Initiative. This is a program created by John Kerry, the former Secretary of State, presidential candidate, Massachusetts senator, and Yale graduate. According to the Hartford Currant, other speakers included, “California Gov. Jerry Brown, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, former Secretary of State James Baker, and General Electric chairman Jeffrey Immelt.”
Secretary Kerry and DiCaprio closed the conference entitled, “Closing Plenary: Citizen Engagement & Activism.” The two men entered to thunderous cheers and applause. The overwhelming outpouring caused both DiCaprio and Kerry to smirk knowingly. The former secretary stepped over to the podium and introduced DiCaprio by referencing Titanic. "Who better to talk about climate change than a man who has witnessed an iceberg breaking apart in the middle of the ocean?" he said.
You could feel the electricity in the room as the audience, mostly Yale students, anxiously awaited to hear DiCaprio speak. Kerry called on the students to become the agents of change, and said we need a new accountability to contain the climate’s growing temperature. “We are way behind as to what has to happen,” Kerry said. Instead, we had to start to learn to “save ourselves, from ourselves.”
DiCaprio spoke at the podium after a clip of his interview-style climate change documentary, Before the Flood which came out last year. Since then, the actor pointed out that more species have gone extinct and wildfires and ferocious storms have become more commonplace. Scientists have been ringing the alarm bells since the ‘90s, he said. Yet, surprisingly little has been done. The economic turmoil he said, will come at us in unison with ecological disaster. According to his foundation, the environment offers us $100 trillion in free services, which are now all in peril.
DiCaprio and Kerry attend Before the Flood screening in New York City, October, 2016. Getty Images.
“These facts have been presented time and again, year after year, for decades,” DiCaprio said. “Quite simply, we are knowingly doing this to ourselves, to our entire planet, and we’re risking our very future.” He mentioned that the intense storms hitting the Caribbean and Gulf Coast, along with the horrendous flooding in Southern Asia, make the “results of our inaction even clearer.”
And yet, “There is still an astounding level of willful ignorance and inaction from the people who should be doing the most to protect us and every other living thing on this planet.” Apparently, DiCaprio and his foundation head met with then President-elect Trump in December and offered a commonsense plan to address climate change, as well as to boost the economy through supporting green jobs. "We talked about how the United States has the potential to lead the world in clean energy manufacturing and research and development,” he said.
DiCaprio called R&D, green jobs, and green engineering “the largest domestic opportunity in all of American history.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration has backed away from the Paris Climate Agreement, which Kerry as Secretary of State helped broker in 2015. According to DiCaprio, the only thing we lack is the political will to tackle this ever-increasing problem.
Kerry and DiCaprio at the Yale event.
“What is missing in some countries is government policies that set bold goals and more leadership from the private sector, to reach out and grab hold of this tremendous opportunity, to be the drivers of innovation, to invest in these clean jobs and understand the economic potential for the future,” DiCaprio said.
When announcing the grants, he said, “We are proud to support the work of over 100 organizations at home and abroad. These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests, and endangered species for future generations, and tackling the urgent, existential challenges of climate change.” See those organizations and the breakdown here.
Perhaps DiCaprio’s most powerful statement,
"There exist today many proven technologies in renewable energy, clean transportation, and sustainable agriculture that we can begin to build a brighter future for all of us. Our challenge is to find new ways to power our lives, employ millions of people and turn every individual into an advocate for clean air and drinkable water. We must demand that politicians accept climate science and make bold commitments before it is too late."
To see DiCaprio's documentary, click here:
Oasis had it right: stop crying your heart out. Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that empathy may be working against our best interests, and that compassion may be a better strategy.
Yale psychologist Paul Bloom’s latest book is called Against Empathy, which doesn’t leave you guessing where he stands. Bloom argues that empathy is doing us damage – there is a place for it, but not so high up on society’s pedestal. Empathy can cloud our decision-making, and bring us too close to problems that require action rather than commiserations. Realizing that begs the question: in a world with less empathy, how do we connect and help our fellow humans? Bloom is banking on compassion, and makes a distinction between the two that transcends semantics: empathy is feeling what other people feel, imagining their predicament, echoing their emotional state. Compassion is more rational: you hear the other person’s predicament but you don’t feel their emotion – this frees you up to understand it, and to make headway on a solution. Bloom likens it to seeing a doctor or a therapist. Do you want them to feel and echo your pain or anxiety, or would prefer that they do something about it? If empathy is as overrated as Bloom suggests, then compassion may be the better way to show you care. Paul Bloom is the author of Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.
Paul Bloom's most recent book is Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.
The ranking of empathy from highest to lowest goes liberals, conservatives, libertarians. But the difference is minor, says Paul Bloom. Typically the debate isn’t all over whether or not to empathize – it’s over who to empathize with.
Paul Bloom's most recent book is Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion.
The title of Paul Bloom's latest book may ruffle a few feathers; it's called Against Empathy. Empathy has come into its own of late, held on a pedestal as one of the most glorified emotional skills – but Bloom argues that at times it can cloud our judgement. When it comes to political debates, typically the debate isn’t all over whether or not to empathize, it’s over who to empathize with, he says. There are some political issues, such as climate change and free speech, in which empathy favors one side of the issue, and encourages inaction over action.
A recent study from Yale University find that dogs are better at resisting peer-pressure and filtering useless information than human beings – but there's value in that human flaw.
Dogs are more no-nonsense than humans. A study from Yale University’s Canine Cognition Center reveals that dogs are better than people at filtering bad advice from good. In the experiment, researchers presented over 40 breeds of dogs with treats hidden inside puzzles. They then demonstrated the steps necessary to solving the puzzle. In doing so, they also included many unnecessary steps. When the dogs proceeded to solve the puzzle, the skipped the steps that had nothing to do with getting to the treats. Thus, the study revealed dogs’ ability to filter useful actions from irrelevant ones. Jeffrey Kluger sums up the results pithily in an article for Time: “[I]f dogs did wear pants, they would use either a belt or suspenders, but definitely not both.”
Humans, on the other hand, are not so savvy. When contrasted with a similar study from Yale that examined children, humans were found to rely more on imitation and failed to filter out unnecessary information. Bill Hathaway summarizes:
[C]hildren watched a demonstrator solve a puzzle by first moving a lever and then lifting a lid to pull out a prize. Although the lever was completely irrelevant for solving the puzzle, children repeatedly performed both actions, even when they were in a race to solve the puzzle as quickly as possible.
Whereas dogs are able to do away with unnecessary steps between them and treats, kids merely imitate the behaviors observed – both necessary and unnecessary – to access the item they want.
Another study from about a decade ago that looked at chimpanzees as well as humans drives home this contrast even more starkly. Both displayed a proclivity toward imitation over efficiency, with humans being the worse culprits. Compared with monkeys and mutts, we are the most easily duped by the silliness of others.
These conclusions about how human beings learn through imitation have deep implications for how we construct and navigate our environments. Yale Professor of Psychology Laurie Santos articulates the scope of these ramifications:
So this tells us something really important about how humans learn relative to other animals. We’re really trusting of the information that we get from other individuals – even more trusting than dogs are. And what this means is we have to be really careful about the kinds of information we present ourselves with. We're not going to have the right filter for bad information, so we should stick to looking at information that's going to be positive, information that's going to be good.
Our tendency to be influenced by the individuals we are exposed to might mean that we choose much of our social stimuli – who we hang out with, what news sources we consult, or perhaps even where we live – more carefully.
But we need not despair at our relative shortcoming for discernment: our propensity for emulation turns out to be quintessentially helpful to human beings. As Angie Johnston, a PhD student at Yale and the principal author on the publication for the dog study, reflects:
Although the tendency to copy irrelevant actions may seem silly at first, it becomes less silly when you consider all the important, but seemingly irrelevant, actions that children are successfully able to learn, such as washing their hands and brushing their teeth.
As writer Cari Romm adds in an article for New York magazine, such proclivities to imitate are necessary for children with no understanding of hygiene to perform such behaviors. While dogs may beat kids to finding the prize efficiently, you’d be hard-pressed to get a dog to brush their teeth.