It’s a scene straight out of a good disaster movie – mass flooding, permanent drought, forests hacked down, and landscapes bursting and burning.
But when it comes to global warming and climate change such a scene is not such a script of make believe.
Film star and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio delivers this point in the powerful documentary, “Before the Flood,” the subject of this month’s Salem Progressive Film Series.
While no means the first movie on climate change, “Before the Flood” boils down the science in simple terms and attempts to empower people to demand their leaders exert political will against oil lobbyists.
The movie also gives viewers hope. In the small window remaining to reverse course on climate change, people can demand change, such as carbon taxes and wind and solar energy systems.
Three-years in the making, “Before the Flood” documents DiCaprio as he travels to five continents and the Arctic to witness effects of global warming first-hand.
Besides working as an actor, he is also an environmental activist and a United Nations messenger of peace,
Global warming, the film says is caused by human activity, particularly our addiction to oil. That has resulted in the melting of polar ice caps, rising sea levels and hotter temperatures.
An insatiable demand for oil has also led to freckling, off-shore drilling, tar sands and removal of mountains.
The ultimate results are dramatic changes in weather patterns, habitat and ecological systems that support the conditions for sustaining life on earth. Longer droughts, more floods and wildfires will be the norm.
A bevy of scientists testify to this in the film, but so do a lone ice fisherman in Greenland, the mayor of low-lying Miami Beach, plus a farmer with flood-ruined crops in Africa.
“If you consider this vastness of this universe, this Planet Earth is just a small boat. If this boat is sinking, then I think we will have to all sink together,” said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the film.
The Salem showing of “Before the Flood” will also include remarks from three Oregon activists on the front lines of climate change research and action.
Mat McRae, Our Children’s Trust climate policy strategist, will talk about what is and what can be done to make a difference.
He will also talk about the trust’s federal lawsuit filed on behalf of youth who are demanding adult leaders leave them a planet that can still support life.
The suit asks that standards and targets be established and met for safe carbon concentrations. “These young people have moral authority when they ask for leaders to do the right thing. When they ask for change it’s powerful,” McRae said.
Speakers will also bring the climate change issue down to Oregon and local levels. Angus Duncan, Oregon Global Warming Commission chair, said Oregon must prepare for the inevitable impacts of climate change but also take broader steps to cut emissions and prevent even greater damages.
Cities must prepare for, say, six inches of flooding, but the entire region must do what’s necessary to prevent floods of six feet, he said. Such severe coastal flooding could wipe out a town like Canon Beach and also take out parts of Highway 101.
Oregon, Duncan added, is well-poised to be a leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and returning to its roots of relying heavily on renewable energy sources.
As the climate and energy analyst in the city of Eugene, McRae will also touch on things being done at level levels, and talk about shifts people can make in their own lives.
On a broader level, solutions are in the wings if the political will can be found to implement new technological advances in wind and solar energy, both renewable energy sources.
“I am continually amazed that there is ready-to-go technology that is completely affordable. This problem is completely solvable if we decide to solve it,” McRae said.
Before the Flood
Salem Progressive Film Series
Guest speakers & audience discussion follow
Speakers include: Kathie Dello, Oregon Climate Change Research Institute associate director; Angus Duncan, Oregon Global Warming Commission chair; Matt McRae, Our Children’s Trust climate policy strategist.
Tuesday, April 18, 7 p.m.
The Grand Theater
191 High St. NE, Salem