Di-Caprio to Play Hero again on Earth’s Day 2000
In an exclusive report by MSNBC.com Saturday, the American popular movie star Leonardo Di-Caprio will set another example of heroism, but in real life this time. Being chair of the Earth’s Day 2000, he has announced that he will invest in manufacturing an alternative car which emits less smoke in the atmosphere.
Following is full text of the report:
He played the bohemian, idealistic hero on a doomed ship. Now Leonardo Di-Caprio is stepping up to a more titanic real-life role - figurehead for millions of young activists on environmental and health issues. Can global warming and America's fossil fuel habit be turned around? With Leonardo and a blossoming new generation, Earth Day organizers hope so.
Di-Caprio made a promise last November when he announced becoming chair of Earth Day 2000's big event on the Washington, D.C., Mall to invest in a hybrid car that runs on both electric and gasoline. "You fill it up at any service station, it gets 60 miles per gallon and has 80 percent fewer emissions than most cars," says Di-Caprio. "It runs like any other car."
No sweat. But to tackle global warming, we need to do much more, he said, such as "to dramatically increase the amount of power we get from clean sources, like the sun, the wind and bio-fuels."
Di-Caprio is pushing Earth Day 2000's focal issue: Given our choices at this turn of the century, do we continue with "19th century production methods that harm the environment and create myriad health problems?" Or instead, do we turn to "new clean, innovative technologies?"
If we don't choose wisely, to borrow an Earth Day organizers' quip, "it could ruin your whole millennium."
While Di-Caprio directs Americans' attention to alternative vehicles that can dramatically save energy and cut pollution, other activists will be trying to get people out of their cars altogether and onto their feet or other transport modes, at least for Earth Day.
The city of Seoul, among dozens of cities sponsoring car-free days, will be closing down 16 lanes of traffic in its downtown core, while communities hold traditional festivals in the space vacated by traffic, reported the Earth Day Network's Mark DuBois.
Italy has already closed off streets and downtown cores to traffic in 500 villages, towns and cities during the last month, he said.
In the United States, Critical Mass groups of young students - who primarily don't drive - are organizing fleets of bicycles to obstruct traffic.
This millennial year, perhaps more than ever, Earth Day organizers are reaching out to youth. The timing couldn't be better: Just this week, the group Environmental Defense released a survey that found the "younger generation is remarkably skeptical about past progress [on air and water quality], with 62 percent believing conditions are worse today and only 29 percent seeing conditions as better."
The group does report, however, that among 18 to 25 year-olds, 87 percent point to "individual actions" and better public education about environmental problems as the best ways to solve these problems.
The group Environmental Defense in April released results of a wide-ranging poll comparing environmental attitudes of young adults (age 18 to 25), with those of the Baby Boom generation who came before them (age 45 to 55).
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The group found some differences, among them that the younger generation "is remarkably skeptical about past progress, with 62 percent believing conditions are worse today and only 29 percent seeing conditions as better." By contrast, the view of the older group was "more balanced," with 52 percent seeing things as worse and 45 percent better.
However, expecting more differences between the generations, "we were struck more by the similarities," said Fred Krupp, executive director of Environmental Defense. "Baby Boomers and the Internet Generation share the same concerns about the environment and agree that individual actions can make the difference when it comes to protecting the planet."
Both generations refused to accept the proposition that environmental problems are so big that individuals can't make much of a difference. Sixty-five percent of the younger set said they "can make difference," while 34 percent they "can't." Sixty-four percent of Boomers said they "can make a difference," while 36 percent said they "can't."
Readying himself for April 22, the 30th Anniversary of the watershed event he helped launch as a college student, Denis Hayes, director of the Earth Day Network, revealed only faint traces of exhaustion over a campaign that promises to bring together half a billion people around the world to put forth "new environmental visions for a sustainable future."
"Young people bring energy and fresh ideas, and if you say 'try it,' they'll go out and actually do it," says Hayes.
While government leaders wrangle over whether to institute carbon or gas taxes to create disincentives for using coal, gas, and oil, the fossil fuels, young people are coming up with better tactics, he says.
"Students began organizing boycotts of recruiters from petroleum companies and others that contribute to the problem," he says. Egged on by students, he adds, universities began voting shareholder resolutions against companies in the Global Climate Coalition, the major lobbyists against carbon cuts in the Kyoto climate change negotiations. "Now British Petroleum, Shell, GM and Ford have all stepped off the coalition, and they have no corporations left - just trade associations."
As the original environmental movement grays, it is being supplanted by younger and younger ranks of activists undertaking scores of volunteer actions, from reforesting urban trees, to weeding and removing invasive species, to adopting parks and putting on "sustainable energy" fairs. In contrast to the typical profile of an environmentalist with greater buying power - the suburban white woman - the new face of the movement, says Michelle Ackermann of Earth Day 2000, is "young and multicultural."
Di-Caprio, Ackermann says, was chosen by Earth Day campaigners as an apt "role model for young people," and because of his stated interest in nature from an early age.
The actor also knows how thorny environmental issues can be, from personal experience. During the filming of The Beach, in which Di-Caprio stars, a local environmental controversy erupted after the film producers arranged for a beach location to be stripped of native vegetation and replanted with imported palm trees. The area as since been restored and the issue resolved.
A YOUTH-LED MOVEMENT
Much of the new movement is youth-led. "Instead of being generated by parents to keep kids busy, it is driven by passionate young people who are really concerned about the environment," says Diana Smith of the YMCA's Earth Service Corps, which has involved 20,000 young people in a variety of community leadership efforts in 30 states since its inception 10 years ago.
Seattle's YMCA teenagers staged a mock debate in which they role-played different interests at the Kyoto climate change talks - some acting as oil company lobbyists, others as representatives from developing countries. Out of the event, says YMCA's Fran Lo, came a commitment from clubs to "encourage carpooling, and walking or biking to school."
The last 10 years, too, has seen the rise of even younger children involved in volunteer and activist efforts, much of it environmental. The Big Help, a program of the Nickelodeon TV channel, boasts that since 1994, when the program began, more than 28.5 million children have pledged more than 300 million child-hours to volunteer efforts - from helping the homeless to cleaning up parks.
"Kids have an incredible amount of energy that goes untapped," says Marva Smalls of The Big Help, "Their energy is infectious. You can't show up at one of their events without being drawn into picking up a shovel yourself."
Lauria Moen, a school resource conservation specialist, agrees. "Waste is a habit--we like to waste resources. But kids don't have them yet," says Moen, who has seen the 19 schools in the Kent School District in Kent, Wash., save some $38,000 a year in energy, water and solid waste. Much of that savings has come from student-run recycling and conservation "patrols" that enlist kids for spot inspections of teachers and staff – Albawaba.com
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)