Before the Flood

‘Before the Flood’ is a documentary addressing the issues within climate change, produced by Leonardo DiCaprio with co-creator Fisher Stevens. Released on October 30th on the National Geographic channel, having spent 3 years in production. There was clear intent to highlight the urgency of climate change action before the presidential elections. In the light of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton having opposing viewpoints on this topic, the former believing it to be a hoax and the latter that action needs to be taken – voters needed to be informed before the election. DiCaprio wanted to ensure the science was easily understandable to the public to show that everyone can make a difference and that it’s not too late.

To convey the message of climate change from a leader’s perspective, the documentary contained the views of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, John Kerry, Sunita Narain, Pope Francis, Ban Ki-Moon and Enric Sala. The leaders are necessary in the battle as they are able to influence the politics that shape the laws on Climate Change. Large coal companies were used as a troubling example as they can fund election campaigns in the United States making it difficult for change to occur.

John Kerry ensured that there was hope, as more funding has gone into the renewable and sustainable energies in the previous year than has gone into the fossil fuels sector in the United States. Not just was this documentary United States centric but encapsulated the way that all countries could move forward. This is especially noted due to the positive effect of having 186 countries on board with the Paris agreement.

Climate change was presented as being an issue that needs to be addressed fully now or there will be social unrest within the planet. The impact on humans was forecast by Obama to bring food security and border security issues that could affect hundreds of millions of people. This could lead to the “urgent breaking point” that DiCaprio wanted to enforce as the result is an international security problem and the loss of many beautiful landscapes and environments on Earth.

The urgency is seen in the political will and the movement of money to find a breakthrough in energy use for the preservation of the environment. The use of well-balanced argument and the presentation of a large amount of researcher keeps this documentary well informed. The statistics presented are meant to shock people into action and invoke change – for example, 2016 was found to be showing one of the hottest years on record.

The world is shown without bias as DiCaprio tries to uncover how much the world has changed due to human intervention. In particular, carbon tax is examined which has been excluded from many similar documentaries. DiCaprio states that the documentary was intended to “sway a capitalist economy” by taking money off oil companies and redistributing it into the research and building of renewables. With the result of the US election, this is looking unlikely for a country that is spending less on solar energy than India. One of Trump’s pledges in May was that the USA would try to exit the Paris Agreement as fast as possible, bypassing the theoretical 4 year leaving procedure.

The opportunities for creating a new energy base of renewables within countries is presented as a possibility and could be a reality for many, given time. The contribution that ‘Before the Flood’ has made will hopefully spark change by laying bare the politics that stops the necessary legislation from being enforced. Therefore, this documentary is critical and much needed in order to show the magnitude of what has happened to Earth. The message conveyed is that there are still ways that we can help our planet and it is possible to save it.


Kira Knowles

(Image courtesy of National Geographic)

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