Leonardo DiCaprio in the 11th Hour"The 11th Hour" is a documentary, narrated and produced by Leonardo DiCaprio and opening Aug. 17, about the havoc we humans have wreaked on the environment and what can be done to change the current path. This is depicted in the film through a serious of dialogues with more than 50 experts in subjects such as the environment and ecoliteracy; climate change; oil; consumerism and media; sustainable design; and religion. Recently, DiCaprio, along with writer/director/producer Leila Conners Petersen, writer/director Nadia Conners, and Kenny Ausubel, founder of the nonprofit Bioneers, met with the press in Beverly Hills to discuss the film. (To watch a clip of the movie, click here.)

What attracted you to this project?

DiCaprio: We had previously worked together on two short films ["Global Warning" and "Water Planet"]. And it really was a homemade movie in a lot of ways. It became about a lot of discussions that we had about the environment and media, and the want and the need to hear some of the great experts and visionaries in the environmental field of our time be able to speak in an open forum, uninterrupted, about a subject matter that they've devoted their life to.

That was really the basis of wanting to make this movie, wanting to hear some great figures really give us some insight as investigators on this issue.... It became, I suppose, a year-and-a-half editing process, condensing down some of their profound thoughts and ideas into an hour-and-a-half format, which was very challenging at times, to say the least.

Are there one or two particular actions you could tell people to do which would make a tremendous difference?

Conners: This is something that we've talked about a lot. I'll answer your question directly, but I think that this is a moment in history where we really have to inspire ourselves, and inspire people to take action in ways that we can't even begin to anticipate.

There are tremendous innovations that [are] in the wings, that's already been developed, that's about to happen. Once you have the shift in consciousness, once you see the world as not a limitless resource, but as a finite resource, and you understand the way our civilization is impacting it, you can come up with very interesting ways, far beyond the 10 things that you can do which we know about now, which is, like, changing your light bulbs and being more conscientious about certain things.

But I will tell you, the one thing is food. And food has a tremendous impact ecologically on the planet, the way it's produced and the way that it's shipped. It uses an enormous amount of fossil fuels, degrades the soil--I'm talking about industrialized agriculture. So if you can start by looking for organic food, local food, and farmer's market food, you will really [have an] impact and there will be a ripple effect on the industry. That's something we all do multiple times a day.

Ausubel: I would underscore what Nadia's saying about consciousness. I mean: there is a level of just education and awareness right now that's really critical.... The film gives some glimmer of the kind of innovations and solutions that are out there. At the end of the day, it's not really a technical problem. We already know what to do, for the most part. It's really a political problem.

So my conviction at this point is that this movement needs to become very explicitly political, and the rhinoceros in the room is corporate power. You could frame this such that it's really corporations versus the survival of the planet. And that is where the cutting edge of the work is going to go.

But there's a meta-trend right now called the New Localism. At 300 million people, this country is basically ungovernable. The corruption in the federal apparatus is so extreme. And the dysfunction, that most of the most positive and progressive political action is happening at the local and the regional level. Now communities are getting connected horizontally, and I would predict over the next bunch of years that that is going to continue at a much higher pace. In fact, it's starting to globalize, to become international.... It's a very different leadership model, of not looking for a messiah or a leader; it's a much more decentralized sense of leadership, and a much more personally empowered sense of leadership.

The film looks at consumerism and the environment, and given that young adults are a target of the film and big consumers, how can they make a difference?

Conners: People don't really derive a lot of happiness from consumption, really. The idea that we're telling our kids, that you'll be happy because you're consuming, is a lie. The idea that being a good citizen, having friends, living in communities--that's where humans really derive happiness. Yes, consumption is okay. It's not like we're saying you can't consume at all. Of course, we identify with objects and we support that. What we're saying is that consumption has gotten totally out of whack....

So, I think you have this movement, which has a lot of heroes... and they're doing meaningful work. There are a lot of young people who have seen this film and the word-of-mouth screenings. What's so exciting is to see 19-, 18-year-olds come up with their eyes completely open and going, "What can I do to help? This is so exciting to me. I'm going to tell all my friends to see it because it's given us a purpose."
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