Before the Flood is very much an educational and advocacy documentary. It’s a cliffs notes version of what’s happening to the world we live in, what’s going to happen to the world we live in, and what we can do to prevent the worst possible outcome. In that respect, it’s kind of like a less boring version of An Inconvenient Truth with some high-profile interviews.
Before the Flood covers most all of the bases. The influence of corporate money into politics is touched on, and DiCaprio travels the globe to see how other countries like China and India are handling climate change, and getting a first-hand account of the effects of climate change on communities that could very well be a preview of much worse things to come.
We see first-hand how Greenland’s melting ice is causing a change in color of its terrain, which in turn no longer reflects the sun but absorbs it, becoming a heat creator instead of reflector. And we see how Miami Beach, Florida is having to literally raise the elevation of its roads to combat rising ocean waters.
We also see how developing communities in places like India are already battling pollution even as their population doesn’t entirely have access to power. If and when they do make coal-produced electricity widely available, the climate change problem only becomes worse.
Amongst these growing issues, everyone is turning to the U.S. to be an example across the globe, as money continues to be a deciding factor that’s dividing our politicians and making widespread change impossible.
Before the Flood isn’t simply interested in showing how terrible everything is. It also does a fantastic job of highlighting solutions, both short-term and long-term. When asked if a president who doesn’t believe in climate change could undo the policies he’s already put in place, President Obama says the truth has a way of catching up with you. Indeed, the film points out that public opinion tends to sway political opinion, using gay marriage as an example—Obama was against it when it wasn’t popular, then for it when the majority of the country approved. Thus, the future is in the hands of the people.
The film even highlights specific changes citizens can make that are as simple as changing one’s diet. The methane produced from the cattle industry is a massive polluter, but if citizens simply excised eating beef from their diet, a significant portion of that pollution would be quelled.
At heart, Before the Flood is a film made for mass consumption in an effort to inform and spur the public into action. In that respect, it’s incredibly effective. There’s a fantastic blend of cold hard facts from expert scientists as well as discussions with world leaders and those directly effected by the effects of climate change
Climate change is real, and it’s scary. Our first line of defense is an informed public. And while a feature film couldn’t possibly encapsulate everything there is to know on the subject, Before the Flood serves as a not-insignificant piece of education that will hopefully spur people to enact their own further research. And maybe, just maybe, it’ll incite some action.