Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 9 December 2019

Russians beg Leonardo DiCaprio to save Siberian lake

The actor's Instagram page has been flooded with messages asking him to raise awareness about Lake Baikal

Leonardo DiCaprio has donated millions of dollars to environmental causes. EPA 
Leonardo DiCaprio has donated millions of dollars to environmental causes. EPA 

Leonardo DiCaprio has 32.9m followers on Instagram and the actor – or as his Instagram bio puts it, “Actor and Environmentalist” – predominantly uses the platform to remind us that we are in danger of destroying the planet.

A couple of days ago, for example, DiCaprio posted a map of the world, which illustrates how much global temperatures are expected to rise by 2050.

So perhaps he shouldn’t be all that surprised to find that people are coming to him to ask for help with specific environmental concerns. Nevertheless, the scale of a recent campaign by Russian environmentalists, imploring DiCaprio, star of upcoming Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, to help save a lake in Siberia has been on an altogether different scale.

Lake Baikal, island Olkhon, rock of Shamanka, summer (iStockphoto.com)
Russia's Lake Baikal, which environmentalists are urging DiCaprio to save. iStockphoto.com

Underneath each of DiCaprio’s recent Instagram posts are thousands of comments in Cyrillic script urging the actor to join the fight to save Lake Baikal, a Unesco World Heritage site. Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, containing more water than all of the US Great Lakes combined.

There are fears, however, that Lake Baikal is in danger of being wrecked by pollution and development. The World Wildlife Fund website states: “Lake Baikal continues to come under threat from industrial pollution, agricultural run-off and other environmental problems, including nearby mining activities and potential oil and gas exploration.”

The BBC translated a number of messages on DiCaprio's Instagram page, many of which are signed off with the hashtag ‘Save Baikal’. These include: “Levushka! [a Russian translation of “Leonardo”] Save our Baikal! We ask you this fraternally on behalf of all of Russia.”

Not all of the messages struck such an earnest tone, though. “If Leo saves Baikal, the whole of Russia will chip in to get him an Oscar,” reads one. “Soon there’ll be nowhere for the Titanic to sail,” runs another.

It is thought that this online guerrilla campaign was launched by a popular Instagram account, @ves_ulan_ude, which reports news from a town near Lake Baikal. Four days ago, the account posted an image of DiCaprio, who has in the past referred to himself as half-Russian, alongside the caption: "Let’s all write to Leonardo DiCaprio about Baikal’s problem ... He’s a famous eco warrior and media personality ... Compatriots, support the movement. Baikal is our everything.

"Comment on DiCaprio's posts in Russian and English and don't forget to include the hashtags ‘Save Baikal’ and ‘Baikal is Ours’."

In 1998, DiCaprio founded the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, "dedicated to the protection and well being of all Earth's inhabitants". He has since donated millions of dollars to environmental causes.

Updated: July 23, 2019 10:52 AM