There are many reasons why voters in the United States should not vote for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, on Tuesday, November 8. These include the fact that he has, on several occasions, shown himself to have a questionable attitude towards women, and generally towards a variety of minority groups in America, at a time when “an evolved soul” (to use rapper Jay Z’s words, denying that Trump is “evolved”) would not have difficulty accepting the variegated racial, gender and cultural structure of societies worldwide. The human race is not homogeneous – we are irreversibly heterogeneous, and those unevolved souls who, like Trump, don’t like it, will just have to dry up.

Another reason for dumping Trump is the fact that he has revealed himself as being an ignoramus when it comes to understanding world affairs, particularly the many different political currents constantly animating international relations, in stark contrast with Hillary Clinton, who does not have an unblemished reputation either, but has a keen understanding of these, partly because of her experience as US Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Trump’s conviction, that politics should be approached as a business, will just not wash – in business relations the risks one takes may lead to personal financial losses that one is willing to face with personal responsibility, but in politics – as leader of a very powerful country, with allies and enemies across the world – the risks you take through your decisions involve millions, no, billions of other people.

But by far the best reason – in fact, the imperative reason – why the American presidency should not go to Trump, is afforded by his uninformed, idiotic stance on climate change, specifically global warming. If you don’t know where he stands on this, do yourself a favour and watch Leonardo di Caprio’s powerfully disturbing film, Before the Flood (2016), made for National Geographic (directed by Fisher Stevens) and placed on YouTube – to be watched for free by everyone who has access to the internet:

Di Caprio is a celebrity with a difference. Unlike the Kardashians of this world, whose dubious fame rests on the shaky basis of ass-revealing selfies and the like, Di Caprio has consistently used his prominence to promote an awareness of the precarious state of the planet, as a direct result of anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change. He was behind the documentary, The 11th Hour (2008), where he already tackled the historical economic causes of the rapidly deteriorating environmental state of affairs on Earth. But while there was a persistent note of hope permeating The 11th Hour, after watching Before the Flood, one is left with a feeling of hope-less emptiness, despite the uplifting concluding scenes of the film, where Di Caprio addresses the United Nations on the occasion of the signing of the Paris agreement on Climate change.

This concluding sequence is supposed to inspire a modicum of hope, but after witnessing all the visual evidence and listened to all the scientific testimony that demonstrates, without a shadow of doubt, that human beings are guilty of the most criminal despoliation of what once was a lush Earth, endowed with plentiful resources for all her creatures to enjoy, it is difficult to summon up any optimism.

As narrator, Di Caprio opens the film with a striking – in fact, unforgettable – image-sequence and discussion, which functions as a metaphor to bathe everything that follows from here in the light of its hermeneutic efficacy. As a child, he informs us, he used to stare at a reproduction of painter Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych, The Garden of Earthly Delights, which his parents had put up above his crib. As time went by, he started seeing in the painting’s three panels – known as Heaven, Earth and Hell, respectively – a story that differs somewhat from the standard Christian interpretation attributed to it.

Instead of simply seeing them as referring to the three mythological topoi, he understood them as representing three stages of the Earth’s history: “Heaven” depicted the condition of the planet as it was before humankind multiplied beyond control; “Earth” showed the multiplication of humans in the presence of other beings, and indulging in a plethora of diverse pleasures; and “Hell”, instead of indexing a realm beyond the planet, was perceived by him as a future condition of Earth as a ravaged, damaged and infernal world caused by human excesses. The way that the film fuses Bosch’s image of “Hell” with images of raging forest fires and factory chimneys spewing black smoke is a stunning evocation of the prophetic validity of Bosch’s late-medieval vision.

It is easy for people to bury their heads in the sand, refusing to give credence to the many informational memes testifying to the sorry state of affairs in the world today. If you fit into this category, you are one of those who need to watch this film most of all, without shielding your senses, your mind and above all, your conscience, from what it reveals. Di Caprio’s journey, in the making of the film, took him right across the world, from China – where, unbeknown to most, there are frequent protests against global warming, and where there is a far greater effort to switch to renewal energy than in the US – to the North Pole, Greenland, Antarctica, India (in all of which the signs of the coming flood are multiplying), Pacific islands in danger of disappearing beneath the waves when the waters start rising, and perhaps the most unlikely of places where global warming is announcing itself ominously, namely Miami, Florida, in the US.

In Miami Di Caprio talks at length to the mayor, who shows him what the city is doing to protect itself against the rising seas, which have of late flooded streets in the city, the water rising up through the drainage system, turning the streets into canals where cars and motorcycles get stuck. If people don’t believe that global warming is happening, and showing threatening effects, the mayor tells him, they should come to Miami. Despite this, incomprehensibly, the governor of Florida is a resolute denialist.

So where does Donald Trump fit into all of this? There is a very telling sequence featuring the Donald and several other Republican figures, including Paul Ryan and his erstwhile rivals for the Republican nomination, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, where they state explicitly that they don’t believe that human beings are in the process of bringing about climate change through their economic activities. Trump’s contribution to this confession of faith is particularly revealing. He is shown standing in front of an audience, complaining that “it is freezing”, and then inquiring where “global warming” is, because he could do with some warming. Instead of the comic effect that he evidently aimed for, this little scene merely confirms his lamentable ignorance. Trump regards global warming as a hoax, despite overwhelming scientific and experiential evidence to the contrary. Di Caprio also reveals the amounts of money (running into millions of dollars) paid to some of these public figures by interested parties, such as oil companies, to maintain their negative stance.

The political and economic reasons behind Republicans’ denial of anthropogenic climate change are foregrounded by a discussion of the many lobby groups in the US and elsewhere, in whose financial interest it is to deny any warming of the planet. The big oil companies, the infamous Koch brothers and several well-known organisations, such as The Heartland Institute, all of them pumping big money into the debate with the express purpose of sowing doubt in the public mind, are exposed for what they are. Climatologist Michael Mann, who had the courage to publish his scientific findings on global warming years ago, and who was vilified by the public and by members of the American Congress, is interviewed by Di Caprio in the context of showing the overwhelming weight of scientific opinion to be on the side of a consensus about the grounds of climate change. Worldwide, 97% of scientists agree that it is of human making, with only 3% disagreeing (for dubious reasons).

Above all, Before the Flood serves as a stirring reminder of how much there is to lose unless people, governments and businesses DO SOMETHING immediately, most importantly by accelerating the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. This beautiful planet – whose beauty and the dangers besetting it are highlighted in the film – depends on urgent and immediate action for life in some of its diversity to stand a chance of survival. If you want to assess the importance of the film, go to:

Leonardo DiCaprio’s ‘Before The Flood’ Sampled By 30M+ Worldwide For National Geographic


  • As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it were, because of Socrates's teaching, that the only thing we know with certainty, is how little we know. Armed with this 'docta ignorantia', Bert set out to teach students the value of questioning, and even found out that one could write cogently about it, which he did during the 1980s and '90s on a variety of subjects, including an opposition to apartheid. In addition to Philosophy, he has been teaching and writing on his other great loves, namely, nature, culture, the arts, architecture and literature. In the face of the many irrational actions on the part of people, and wanting to understand these, later on he branched out into Psychoanalysis and Social Theory as well, and because Philosophy cultivates in one a strong sense of justice, he has more recently been harnessing what little knowledge he has in intellectual opposition to the injustices brought about by the dominant economic system today, to wit, neoliberal capitalism. His motto is taken from Immanuel Kant's work: 'Sapere aude!' ('Dare to think for yourself!') In 2012 Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University conferred a Distinguished Professorship on him. Bert is attached to the University of the Free State as Honorary Professor of Philosophy.


Bert Olivier

As an undergraduate student, Bert Olivier discovered Philosophy more or less by accident, but has never regretted it. Because Bert knew very little, Philosophy turned out to be right up his alley, as it...

Leave a comment