What We Learned About Climate Change After Watching Before The Flood

We watched’s Leo DioCaprio’s Before The Flood and this is what we learned. It’s not as depressing as you might think.

National Geographic recently released their documentary film Before the Flood for streaming. In it, Oscar winner (and Before The Flood producer) Leonardo DiCaprio explores climate change and meets with experts to discuss the future of the planet and the long-term effects of global warming on our environment. But how to fix the planet when you are an underpaid millennial living in a share house and spending all your money on avocado brunches in a world riddled with corporate greed? It’s not as depressing as you think.

Although the title immediately conjures apocalyptic images in our minds, the overall tone of Before the Flood is hopeful. The film begins by covering all the depressing stuff first: extreme weather that has rocked the world in recent years, the astounding rate the Greenland ice sheet is melting at, and how thin the Earth’s atmosphere has become since the industrial revolution. Before you close the browser at the thought of how terrifying it all sounds, you should know that the film has positive vibes that so far, have reached a mere 60 million viewers.

Without getting bogged down in the details we looked at two positive points from the film. We’ve outlined the problems a little, just so you get the gist, and shown you the key ways you can reduce your impact and contribute to the reversal of climate change with very little effort.

Palm oil

The problem: Start to read your labels, palm oil is in everything from the ice cream in your freezer to the detergent in your laundry. Because it can be used in a variety of products, harvesting palm oil is a leading cause in global deforestation and elimination of wildlife (especially Orangutangs). This is happening because palm oil is super cheap to buy and once the land has been cleared, easy to produce.

The positive: Reduce your palm oil intake with little effort and reap the big benefits: better health and beautiful scenery from the ethical high road. Those labels you read that contain palm oil? Ditch them, unless it is produced sustainably. Palm oil is incredibly high in fat, therefore consuming less will do wonders for your health and potentially your bank account if the brands you avoid mainly produce processed junk food. Plus, it will certainly make Leo proud.

Want to find your brand of inspiration? Check out Australian campaigns like ‘Don’t Palm Us Off’, who created ZooperMarket, a site that provides a breakdown of how much palm oil is in your shopping trolley and how to shop sustainably.

Animal agriculture

The problem: The meat and dairy industry is responsible for more greenhouse emissions than all transportation combined – cars, planes, trains, you name it. Did your mind just blow, too? No wonder animal agriculture is a leading cause of climate change.

What we often forget is that it is not as simple as just eating meat and dairy; it is the feeding, farming, and shipping of animal agriculture that wrecks the most havoc. In fact, it is such a strain, that some research even states that raising animals in America accounts for half of the country’s annual water usage.

The positive: Small adjustments to how much meat and dairy you ingest can have profound affects on consumer culture and in turn, also change the environmental affect of animal agriculture. Don’t worry, you don’t have to resort to being a full-time vegetarian in order to feel like you are making a difference. In fact, if we collectively cut our consumption of meat and dairy by half it would significantly reduce the impact of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.

Try to make conscious decisions about how much meat you eat per week, and if you’re a big meat eater, check your daily intake too. Purchasing less meat means less demand on the industry, which means less emissions and negative environmental impact, which means a happier, healthier planet.


Leo DiCaprio having real talk with President Obama. Image: Before the Flood.

Despite the terrifying facts exposed in the documentary, Before The Flood reminds us that positive changes are happening. You can breathe easy knowing that you aren’t the only one wanting to make a difference. The Paris Agreement officially came into affect on 4 November 2016, which cements climate change on the international agenda for a better future. Corporations like SpaceX and Tesla Motors are making waves in sustainable energy production and consumption that can be mass distributed to consumers at affordable prices. And in Australia, firms like Brickworks Building Products have created energy efficient bricks that offset carbon and lower emissions by 215 tonnes per year. Considering that the construction industry’s emissions make up 23% of Australia’s total carbon emissions, we think that’s pretty great.

If you’re still not convinced that this is a problem we can solve, head to the correlating website National Geographic created in conjunction with the film. It provides viewers with the resources and tools to start their journey toward making small but significant changes.

Claire Dalgleish is a freelance writer and art curator who currently lives in Sydney. She woke up like this. You can read more on her blog art/writing/projects and follow her via @art.writing.projects