Paula Alvarez Pino, the coordinator and research assistant for Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, addresses the crowd on sustainability and climate change. Photo by Fred StephensPaula Alvarez Pino, the coordinator and research assistant for Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center, addresses the crowd on sustainability and climate change. Photo by Fred StephensDestiny Hosmer - Staff Writer

The UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center hosted a free screening of Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary film, “Before the Flood,” which urges humans to work toward preventing the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the globe.

The film, which provides a look at how climate change affects the environment and what society can do to prevent the negative consequences, was co-produced by Academy-Award winning filmmaker Fisher Stevens and debuted on the National Geographic channel on Oct. 31.

DiCaprio, an Academy Award-winning actor, environmental activist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, said at the Toronto International Film Festival that the film is intended to give the scientific community a voice.

The film follows DiCaprio on his journey to five continents and the Arctic alongside environmental experts to uncover the realities of climate change first-hand.

Between interviews with locals, Pope Francis, President Obama and others, DiCaprio witnessed the harmful mass production of synthetic crude oil in Canada, the melting glaciers of the Arctic, the rising flood waters of Florida and the dying coral reefs.

“When Fisher and I set out on this journey, we wanted to make a film that presented audiences not just with the alarming facts about climate change and the environmental crisis it has created but one that also showed the solutions we have within our power, right now, to drive lasting change for the future,” DiCaprio wrote on the “Before the Flood” website.

The goal of the UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center is to foster cross-disciplinary research, training and outreach for the purpose of developing innovative solutions for sustainable smart cities and communities.

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas such as Birmingham, according to SSCRC.

Cities are responsible for around 75 percent of all energy used, 60 percent of all water consumed and 80 percent of all greenhouse gases produced worldwide. In 2010, 83 percent of Americans lived in cities, and by 2050 the SSCRC estimates that the number will increase to 90 percent.

Zach Swan, a philosophy student at UAB who plans to study environmental law after graduation, said that preventing environmental damage will be easier than repairing it later.

“I think it’s important to realize that it’s easier for us to prevent problems with future knowledge of them being a possibility. It’s harder and more expensive to repair damage than it is to prevent it,” he said.

A sustainable urban area is characterized by the preservation of natural environment, use of renewable or highly efficient energy resources, healthy population with access to health services and the presence of economic vitality, social equity and engaged citizenry, according to the SSCRC.

Despite the damage that has been done, there are still numerous ways to reduce waste and the carbon footprint. Those interested can pay a voluntary carbon tax, learn about voting for the climate, view a local flood map, read about the environment and more at

Additionally, information about environmentally-friendly practices can be found here at UAB by visiting
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