In the Trump era, the DiCaprio Foundation is stepping up its climate efforts. Big time.

Photo by Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images.

With seemingly no one in the White House steering the U.S. into an environmentally sustainable future, who's going to take the wheel?

Leonardo DiCaprio has an idea who.

Speaking at Yale University on Sept. 19, the actor and activist announced his foundation is giving a whopping $20 million in grants to over 100 eco-groups dedicated to fighting climate change, protecting indigenous rights, and wildlife conservation efforts, among other issues.

It's the largest portfolio of environmental grants ever given by the DiCaprio Foundation, according to the group, which chose to unveil the figure at John Kerry's Kerry Initiative climate change conference.





"These grantees are active on the ground, protecting our oceans, forests, and endangered species for future generations — and tackling the urgent, existential challenges of climate change," DiCaprio said.

Thank you John Kerry for hosting today's #YaleClimateConference. We must all work together to combat #climatechange....


Posted by Leonardo DiCaprio on Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The DiCaprio Foundation, which raises money in large part from high-profile fundraising events, didn't beat around the bush either: Washington's indifference toward crucial environmental issues is making matters worse.

While President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress weren't mentioned by name, their inaction were certainly part of the discussion.

“This round of grants comes at a critical time," explained Terry Tamminen, the foundation's CEO. "With a lack of political leadership and continued evidence that climate change is growing worse with record-breaking heatwaves and storms, we believe we need to do as much as we can now, before it is too late.”

DiCaprio has spoken out against Trump's dismissal of climate change before.

In June, shortly after the president announced plans for the U.S. to leave the Paris climate accord — a global agreement between nearly every nation to drastically slash carbon emissions — DiCaprio slammed the unpopular move, calling it a "careless decision."

“Our future on this planet is now more at risk than ever before," he wrote in a statement. "For Americans and those in the world community looking for strong leadership on climate issues, this action is deeply discouraging."

Leonardo DiCaprio Schools Trump on Climate Change

As Donald Trump––aka our Climate Denier in Chief––prepares to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Leonardo DiCaprio reminds us why that would be so fucked up:

Posted by Fusion on Wednesday, May 31, 2017

With help from groups like DiCaprio's, however, Americans are stepping up to the plate — with or without their president.

The U.S. might meet its carbon reduction goals outlined in the Paris agreement despite Trump's lack of support.

An initiative led by Michael Bloomberg, for example, has united dozens of mayors, governors, businesses, and universities in remaining committed to the Obama administration's Paris pledge to slash America's carbon output by 26% from its 2005 levels by the year 2025.

It could, in a sense, nullify any formal withdrawal from the accord.

“The bulk of the decisions which drive U.S. climate action in the aggregate are made by cities, states, businesses, and civil society,” Bloomberg wrote in a letter to Antonio Guterres. “Collectively, these actors remain committed to the Paris accord.”

There's ways for you to get involved and stay committed too.

Consider supporting one of the many environmental groups that will receive grants from the DiCaprio Foundation or nonprofits like the Sierra Club or NRDC to make real change when it comes to climate action.

Heroes

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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