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DiCaprio to UN Climate Summit: ‘You Can Make History, or Be Vilified By It’

Leonardo DiCaprio at the United Nations

Why is it that celebrities are often the ones to represent “concerned citizens” in front of the United Nations? No doubt because it does tend to bring a lot of attention to the important and pressing issues represented, such as climate change and gender equality – to name just two very recent examples.

In any case, famous actor and committed environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio is the newly appointed UN Messenger of Peace, and he did offer some stirring words to the delegates at the opening of the UN Climate Summit 2014 in New York.

DiCaprio pointed out to the delegates that a 400,000-strong climate march had just taken place in the streets of New York, urging them to take decisive action to address climate change.

He made a good point in relation to his own acting profession: “As an actor I pretend for a living. I play fictitious characters often solving fictitious problems. I believe humankind has looked at climate change in that same way: as if it were a fiction, happening to someone else’s planet, as if pretending that climate change wasn’t real would somehow make it go away.”

DiCaprio also pointed out that escalating climate change is a fact, not rhetoric or hysteria: “The scientific community knows it, industry and governments know it, even the United States military knows it. The chief of the US navy’s Pacific command, admiral Samuel Locklear, recently said that climate change is our single greatest security threat.”

His crucial point was that, “this body – perhaps more than any other gathering in human history – now faces that difficult task. You can make history, or be vilified by it.” As many other people have, for over 25 years now, DiCaprio begged the gathering to face up to the challenge with courage, and honesty.

If you are interested in reading about the outcomes achieved at the summit, a brief summary can be found over at the NYTimes. Tellingly, the outcomes are described as “modest moves”, many of which are already in the works. Nobody was expecting a total solution to be decided at this single summit, but as we well know, the more time that goes by, the more difficult and expensive it will be to adequately address climate change.

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