Ever since the onset of civilised governance, regardless of it being a democracy or a monarchy, interest groups have advocated for a variety of regulations and privileges. They have pressured governments into enacting laws and taking strict measures, and many a times, into committing crime and carrying out genocides. Nevertheless, advocating for certain legislations is as much a part of our civilisations as something essential such as trading, maintenance of law and order, or provision of food and other supplies. This tradition is often referred to as lobbying, deriving its origin from the times when members of several interest groups would meet the Members of Parliament in the ‘lobby’ of the UK Houses of Parliament to discuss legislations and influence the lawmakers.

The term ‘lobbying’ carries a lot of negative connotation with it due to its image being associated with massive corporations influencing the government for their own needs. However, that was not the case in one of the first instances of lobbying. In 1792, American soldier and politician William Hull was “hired by the Virginia veterans of the Continental Army to lobby for additional compensation.”[2] This incident displays that considerate lobbying can bring about positive developments. Instances of such cases are becoming increasingly popular in the twenty-first century with celebrities advocating for numerous social causes such as global warming, racism, terrorism and immigration rights. One of the most prominent celebrity lobbyists who has been constantly advocating for the betterment of society for years is the actor Leonardo DiCaprio. DiCaprio has been actively involved in the conservation of environment. He is an extremely vocal critic of organisations and practices that are contributing to climate change and the exponential rise in pollution around the world.

DiCaprio was influenced as a child to save the planet after watching documentaries depicting heavy deforestation and extinction of animals.[3] Soon after gaining fame and recognition, he established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) in 1998 with the aim to promote environmental awareness and conservation. The LDF has worked with officials and lawmakers from around the world to bring about sustainable and effective changes. Along with the World Wildlife Fund, LDF donated one million dollars in 2010 to “expand an innovative tiger conservation project in Nepal”.[4] Moreover, LDF has also instigated political changes with respect to environmental issues. Due to a petition launched by the organisation in 2013, which was signed by 1.5 million supporters, Thailand’s then Prime Minister Yingluck Shingawatra had to pledge to end the ivory trade of the country.[5] Hence, it is evident that if a global celebrity such as DiCaprio embraces the initiative to save the planet, they can effectively contribute to tackling the causes behind this issue.

Aside from actively participating in the conservation acts, DiCaprio and his foundation have also created several short films and other media projects to spread awareness about the urgency associated with climate change. After extensively developing it for four years, in 2007 DiCaprio released his first feature-length documentary dealing with environmental issues called The 11th Hour. It is one of the most inspirational films to be created on the impending dangers of climate change and features “over 50 of the world’s leading experts on environmental issues and the exciting solutions that can save our planet and humanity.”[6] It is commendable to observe the versatile contributions that DiCaprio is making in this field. While he is using his economic resources to create trust funds and make donations for various causes, he is also utilising his cinematic expertise and appeal to reach audiences worldwide and motivate them to con  tribute as well.

Photo Courtesy – Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation

One of the most important goals of the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is to facilitate a complete transition to renewable energy. Many corporations and governments that benefit from the production and sale of fossil fuels used to oppose the consumption of renewable energy, claiming that it is not feasible enough. The myth surrounding the 100% renewable energy system was debunked in 2017 by a Stanford University study funded by LDF which discovered that “100% renewables by 2050 is not only feasible, but also increases human health and lifts global GDP.”[7] Therefore, it is clear that the contributions made by DiCaprio and his foundation have far-reaching impacts on the general public interest, stretching out to the welfare of humanity years from now. Leonardo DiCaprio is an exemplar of the ideal social lobbyist – someone who uses their reach to promote the abolition of societal practices that are damaging the very fabric of our civilisation.

–  Shashwat Jha

[1] “Lobbying,” BBC News (BBC, October 1, 2008), http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/82529.stm.

[2] Elizabeth Dwoskin, “A Brief History of Lobbying,” Bloomberg.com (Bloomberg, June 7, 2012), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-06-07/a-brief-history-of-lobbying.

[3] Jeanne Wolf, “Leonardo DiCaprio: Fame Can Make You ‘a Little Bit Nuts’,” Parade (Parade: Entertainment, Recipes, Health, Life, Holidays, October 9, 2013), https://parade.com/40227/jeannewolf/0216-leonardo-dicaprio-shutter-island/.

[4] “Timeline,” The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, accessed August 26, 2020, https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/timeline/.

[5] “Timeline”.

[6] “Leonardo DiCaprio,” WWF (World Wildlife Fund), accessed August 27, 2020, https://www.worldwildlife.org/leaders/leonardo-dicaprio.

[7] Lisa Swann, “New Report Proves 100% Renewable Is Achievable and Affordable,” The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, May 22, 2018, https://www.leonardodicaprio.org/new-report-proves-100-renewable-is-achievable-and-affordable.