5 times Leonardo DiCaprio's viral documentary gave me real feelings.

Leonardo DiCaprio's new documentary, "Before the Flood," has been on YouTube for just a few days, but it already has millions of views.

The documentary is a moving, uncompromising look at climate change, produced by both DiCaprio and National Geographic. In the documentary, DiCaprio, who's been an outspoken supporter of climate action, gives us a refreshing, very frank look at what the climate change situation is really like.

DiCaprio doesn't pull his punches on the big stuff, but what actually fascinated me were some of the smaller, simpler, more emotional moments.


"Before the Flood" is an hour and a half long, and I can't recommend watching it enough, mostly because of these five affecting, emotional moments that stayed with me once the movie was done.

1. The quiet moment when a researcher admits how much the natural world means to him.

All images are screengrabs from "Before the Flood"/National Geographic/YouTube.

Near the beginning of the film, DiCaprio goes up to Greenland to check out the glaciers and ice sheets. You'll get to see amazing footage of crevasses and ice floes, and he also does some really cool interviews, including one with a local hunter.

But one moment in this scene stands out: DiCaprio is standing with Dr. Enric Sala, a marine ecologist and National Geographic explorer, watching some narwhals come up before them. You can actually hear the whales click and purr.

Then, just at the end, Sala turns to DiCaprio and says, unbidden, "You know, I don't want to be on a planet without these animals."

2. The moment in Beijing that made me think about my own family.

A short while later, the crew is in Beijing talking to a Chinese woman who's holding an air mask in her hand. She explains what it's like to live surrounded by Beijing's legendarily bad air pollution, mentioning that her family puts on their masks when they step outside and feed the cat.

"When the air is bad it hurts my throat," the woman says.

The scene isn't as visually impressive as drone footage of smoke stacks or giant industrial machines, but it stuck with me all the same. It sounds like the kind of everyday comment someone in my family might make.

3. The moment when Sunita Narain called out DiCaprio's wishful thinking and told him to get real.

Later, DiCaprio goes to India to talk to Sunita Narain, an environmentalist and activist. About 30% of India — roughly 300 million people — still live with no electricity, so the discussion turns to how to bring power to people without resorting to fossil fuels.

If you're like me and like thinking about the nitty-gritty of climate change — not just the big goals but the hard truths and big questions — this is an amazing exchange. But the best part is when she calls out the U.S. for wanting India to move to renewables while the U.S. drags their feet.

"If it was that easy, I would have really liked the U.S. to move towards solar, but you haven't," Narain says. "Let's put our money where our mouth is."

It's real, uncompromising conversation and actually feels awesome. It's a "take that" to every simpering, milquetoast politician who's more concerned with firing up their base and talking pretty than getting results.

4. The moment I'll remember every time I watch a snowy movie from now on.

While they were filming "The Revenant," they actually had to have the snow trucked in. It was too warm. In fact, they ended up having to fly halfway around the world to frosty Argentina in order to continue filming.

I remember "The Revenant." I remember the snow and the cold and the biting frost of that film. To think of future movies having to truck in snow is just so ... weird. I'm not sure I'll be able to see any frozen, snowy landscape without wondering how much snow was there and how much had to be trucked in.

5. Finally, what might have been my favorite moment: when DiCaprio asked Obama a really uncomfortable question.

This is my favorite moment in the film by far.

"You are the leader of the free world," says DiCaprio. "You have access to information that most people do not. What makes you terrified for the future?"

Obama's answer? He waxes poetic about his kids for a moment, but when it comes down to it, he says, a huge amount of people live near the ocean. If the sea levels rise, those people will need to flee to somewhere — and that could be a problem.

"In very hard-headed terms, you've got to worry about the national security implications of this. And the capacity for the existing world order as we understand it to survive the kinds of strains that the scientists are predicting."

In truth, this movie is full of amazing moments. It was really hard to pick just five.

There were so many awesome scenes, like when DiCaprio visits the mayor of Miami Beach, which is already experiencing flooding, or when he feeds rescued orangutans in Indonesia and tried his Italian on Pope Francis.

But in the end, "Before the Flood" has two simple messages.

One, we have to consume differently. We need to think about where our food and lifestyles are coming from. In many ways, though, we're beyond the stage where simple actions can solve everything. So two, and perhaps more importantly, we all need to vote. We need world leaders who will invest in renewables and put taxes on carbon.

The final segment, by the way — where DiCaprio gives a speech to the United Nations — might be the most affecting. I found it hard to not tear up. But I'm not going to link to it because you really owe it to yourself to watch the whole movie.

Photo by Mike Marrah on Unsplash

The "Big 5" is an old term from the colonial era, denoting the five wild animals in Africa that were the most sought-after kills for trophy hunters. Killing those five—lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo—meant ultimate success in the big-game hunting world.

Now there's a "New Big 5," but instead of a barbaric goal for trophy hunters, it's a beautiful goal for wildlife photographers.

The initiative was created by British wildlife photographer Graeme Green with the goal of raising awareness about threats to the world's animals including habitat loss, poaching, illegal animal trade, and climate change. In a global call for votes, 50,000 wildlife lovers shared which animals they most wanted to photograph or see in photos. And the winners are:

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Photo by Mike Marrah on Unsplash

The "Big 5" is an old term from the colonial era, denoting the five wild animals in Africa that were the most sought-after kills for trophy hunters. Killing those five—lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo—meant ultimate success in the big-game hunting world.

Now there's a "New Big 5," but instead of a barbaric goal for trophy hunters, it's a beautiful goal for wildlife photographers.

The initiative was created by British wildlife photographer Graeme Green with the goal of raising awareness about threats to the world's animals including habitat loss, poaching, illegal animal trade, and climate change. In a global call for votes, 50,000 wildlife lovers shared which animals they most wanted to photograph or see in photos. And the winners are:

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."