28th February marked the day when the wishes of many came true and Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar for The Revenant. His fans around the globe were ecstatic and as per predictions the internet did indeed ‘break down’.

Leonardo made good use of the global platform by highlighting the issue of climate change in his acceptance speech.

 “Climate change is real, it is happening right now. Climate change is the most urgent threat facing our entire species. Let us not take our planet for granted.”

Over the period he has evolved from a celebrity ambassador for various leading non-profit organizations to a true advocate and activist by schooling himself on the issues associated with climate change since the 1990s.

In his own words, his biggest evolution took place after his meeting with Al-Gore which turned him into a full-fledged climate activist. In that same year he founded Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. The mission of the foundation states:

‘The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation is dedicated to the long term health and wellbeing of all Earth’s inhabitants. Through collaborative partnerships, we support innovate projects that protect vulnerable wildlife from extinction, while restoring balance to threatened ecosystems and communities. LDF works in four key areas: protecting biodiversity, ocean conservation, wildlands conservation and climate change .’

His social media feed is dedicated to spreading awareness about this crucial issue, highlighting the problems and what can be done before all doors are shut on us.

The thing that makes him stand out is the fact that he does not claim to be a lone warrior on this front, nor does he propagate the image of a messiah who has it all figured out. You get to see him push the idea of collective action and collaborations. Given his global fan following and his strong impact on their consciousness, what he says leaves an impression far and wide.

Moving back home, Pakistan is among the top ten countries most affected by climate change; be it natural disasters, spread of vector borne diseases, extreme heat waves, food security or the fact that if we continue at this pace our financial hub Karachi would be submerged by 2060.

Despite these and an additional long list of proofs that should serve as writing on the wall, climate change and its impacts are still considered to be a western concept and something that does not concern the large chunk of the general population. The reality is the complete opposite. We are already facing the consequences and these are going to intensify if not dealt with properly.

Climate change activism is still quite limited among our local opinion leaders. This disconnect is worrisome. While we see them put their stature behind many other social issues, conservation and climate change have yet to make the cut at that scale. One reason can be the fact that the result for advocating about these issues show at a much slower pace and we as a nation are not known for our long-term planning. Those who are genuinely interested in the issue, do whatever little they can in their individual capacity. As an acquaintance once said on the subject, “Every small effort does count but unfortunately, the scale of these efforts is not at pace with our needs.” We are in dire need of collective efforts and on a much bigger scale.

It will be good if a page or two is borrowed from Leonardo’s book. People working on ground should join forces with local opinion leaders to help spread awareness that this is not a foreign issue but something on which our survival depends. Consciousness and engagement at all levels needs to become a common practice instead of a rarity, if we want to see the light at the end of the tunnel.