SEATTLE — Leonardo DiCaprio is known for his award-winning acting and his recent climate change documentary Before the Flood, but he is also a humanitarian and environmentalist who established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998. For more than 20 years, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has brought attention and funding to wildlands conservation, ocean conservation, climate change, indigenous rights and innovative solutions to global issues.
The foundation has supported more than 200 projects in 50 countries across the globe. It funds these programs through grantmaking and public campaigning; DiCaprio also dedicates his social media platforms to educating the public about his foundation. The foundation collaborates with a network of leaders, nonprofit organizations, and philanthropists to support projects in threatened parts of the world.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Sheds Light on Inequality in Poor and Rural Communities
The foundation’s website publishes many stories, blogs and news articles. Many of these articles focus on inequality across the globe. “For many poor and rural communities around the world, their land is their livelihood. In fact, more than half of the world’s land area – including most of the world’s tropical forests – is occupied by communities following customary or traditional systems. Yet, the 2.5 billion people in traditional rural communities have formal legal ownership of only 10 percent of the world’s land,” states an article published by Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. The foundation works to address these ownership issues and help people in impoverished communities assert their rights.
The foundation has partnered with the organization Amazon Frontlines to help empower indigenous people in the Amazon to defend their culture and land. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation provided Amazon Frontlines with a grant a few years ago, which led to the formation of the Ceibo Alliance. This alliance is important because the four nations, Cófan, Secoya, Siona and Waorani, had been divided for decades due to their cultural differences. The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation supports the Ceibo Alliance with legal advocacy, environmental monitoring and communications.
In another initiative, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation gave Anpo Wicahpi Pine Ridges’ Girls’ School a grant for a course titled “Politics of Water”. The all-girls school is located in one of the most impoverished counties in America, Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This curriculum will help the community understand treaty rights in relation to water, and build forces of resistance to developments that threaten water (such as the Dakota Access Pipeline).
Empowering Marginalized Communities Through Technology
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has partnered with Digital Democracy, an organization that supports marginalized communities in places such as Mexico, Peru, Guyana and Ecuador. Digital Democracy also builds tools for people living in remote communities. These digital tools help communities document government threats, map their land and engage with the global community.
The foundation has also invested in off-grid solar power for rural communities. Last April, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation invested in Kingo, a solar company based in Guatemala. More than 1.2 billion people across the world lack energy access in their homes, so Kingo offers them solar energy plans that are prepaid. These prepaid plans cost less than diesel or candles. Kingo installs more than 7,000 new systems in off-grid homes every month.
While there are many celebrities who donate their time and money to various causes, few celebrities can be compared to Leonardo DiCaprio. For more 20 years, his foundation has helped fund important causes across the world, and will hopefully continue to do so for generations to come.
– Ariane Komyati