And the Oscar goes to … raising environmental awareness | Environment| All topics from climate change to conservation | DW | 29.02.2016
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And the Oscar goes to … raising environmental awareness

Award winners used the Oscars limelight to champion tackling climate change - with a warning that continuing to pollute the atmosphere could make dystopian fantasy "Mad Max: Fury Road" a horrible prophecy.

Amid the glitz and glamour, among the serious messages cutting through the swathe of Oscar razzle-dazzle - was also the urgent need to combat climate change.

Oscar winners are no strangers to seizing the opportunity of their victorious moment on stage to raise political issues - and the 88th Academy Awards on Sunday evening saw the environment as one of the key issues being driven home to viewers.

Leonardo DiCaprio, a long-time environmental campaigner, used his much-awaited first Oscar for survival epic "The Revenant"to raise the issue that is very close to his heart.

DiCaprio received a standing ovation as he picked up the best actor award for his role playing an experienced guide working with a crew of fur trappers, and his fight for survival in the tough frozen wilderness of 19th century North America.

DiCaprio said: "Making 'The Revenant' was about man's relationship to the natural world, a world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in reported history.

"Our production needed to move to the southern tip of this planet just to be able to find snow.

"Climate change is real - it is happening right now," he continued. "It is the most urgent threat facing our species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating."

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (Photo: Twentieth Century Fox)

Leonardo DiCaprio's character in "The Revenant" had a very close bond with the natural world

'Don't take this planet for granted'

He called on viewers to "support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters or the big corporations, but who speak for all of humanity, for the indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people who'll be affected by this."

"Let us not take this planet for granted," he added. "I do not take tonight for granted."

DiCaprio told reporters after his win: "I feel very honored, to share this has been an amazing experience, to sit there and talk about the film.

"I also got to talk about something I have been obsessed with - the environment and climate change - on a platform with hundreds of millions of people watching worldwide."

Struggling to find snow

On the difficulty of finding enough snow in which to film, DiCaprio said in an earlier interview in "Wired" magazine: "We had a lot of complications while shooting, because it was the hottest year in recorded history. In Calgary there were all these extreme weather events."

On one day it was 40 degrees below zero, and the gears of the camera didn't work. Twice during the movie, actors and crew had seven feet of snowmelt in a day - all of it within five hours.

"We were stuck with two or three weeks of no snow in a film that's all snow," DiCaprio said. "We had to shut down production multiple times. That's what happens with climate change: the weather is more extreme on both ends."

The crew even had to wrap up filming early, resuming only when they could find snow again - at the South Pole. But even Antarctica is in danger of melting away.

Eco-champion DiCaprio

The actor, who finally landed the best actor Academy Award 22 years after his first of five nominations for acting, has capitalized upon his fame as one of the world's leading actors to raise the profile around the climate change topic.

He launched the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to focus on "protecting biodiversity, ocean and forest conservation and climate change."

In January, the actor met with Pope Francis - a fellow prominent environment advocate - to discuss climate change. He also recently addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he announced that his foundation would be donating another $15 million to environmental projects - and pleading with business leaders to battle global warming.

Mad Max as prophecy?

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road (Photo: Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.)

Charlize Theron stars in the dystopian film "Mad Max: Fury Road"

Jenny Beavan, who won the best costume design Oscar for her work on "Mad Max: Fury Road," also championed the environment in her acceptance speech, warning that the film could be "horribly prophetic."

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland blighted by fuel shortages and water scarcity.

"I just want to say one quite serious thing: I've been thinking about this a lot, but actually it could be horribly prophetic - 'Mad Max' - if we're not kinder to each other, and if we don't stop polluting our atmosphere, it could happen," Beavan said.

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