Guess who came a-visiting India last week? Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio, whose latest film The Revenant is set for release in December and shot in harsh conditions in Canada, was in an Indian village last week to talk to farmers and residents to get to know how climate change has hit India's poor.
The actor is in the forefront of climate activism and was in Kheladi village, Mewat, Haryana, where he had discussions with residents of the town and village, poor farmers and climate experts. His interest lies in the linkage between poverty and climate change and possibility of renewable energy sources as a panacea.
DiCaprio also attended a conference with Delhi-based organization Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). DiCaprio has a strong association with Sunita Narain, CSE director, and environmental activists and his trip also had to do with plans to make a documentary on her.
DiCaprio has launched conservation projects in some 40 countries through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which works to protect biodiversity, oceans and wildlands conservation and climate change. The untitled, yet-to-be-announced documentary film featuring Narain on climate change will "explore the crisis of our time in a way that has never been done before", Indian Express said.
A CSE press release said DiCaprio wanted to "understand our perspectives on the issue and discuss how the world should work together to combat catastrophic climate change". In Kheladi village, Leonardo saw the impact of unseasonal weather on farmers. Acres of productive farmland were under water, because of extreme rain that had hit the district in mid-September.
Farmers told DiCaprio that they did not know if this was climate change, but that their experience of over 50 years in farming was told them that there was something "new and catastrophic afoot", the press release said.
DiCaprio also saw women cooking using cow dung and firewood. Even in households which had LPG connections, it was too expensive to use and so women continued to cook using these polluting sources. In the end, the discussions veered to the linkages between energy, poverty and climate change.
"We discussed the issues of energy poverty and how renewable energy could be the way ahead," added Narain, adding it can only be done if there is funding for making such a transition.