When he is not making movies, parting with mystery women, or sitting alone and bored outside of Palm Springs stores, Leonardo DiCaprio is busy saving the environment. As the Desert Sun reports, this includes kicking in a hundred grand to help monitor how dusty the Salton Sea is getting and he didn’t even get a weird license plate for doing it.
A nonprofit group’s efforts to monitor windblown dust around the Salton Sea is getting a boost from the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which is providing a $100,000 grant to support the group’s expanding network of air pollution monitors.
The nonprofit Comité Cívico Del Valle has already set up about 40 air monitoring devices between the U.S.-Mexico border and the Salton Sea, aiming to fill in gaps in data collected by government agencies while bringing communities real-time reports assessing air quality at a neighborhood level.
Dusty air is a worsening problem along the shores of the Salton Sea, which is about to start shrinking rapidly next year, exposing vast stretches of lakebed and more lung-harming dust. Imperial County already has the highest rate of asthma-related emergency room visits for children in California, and the problem is expected to get worse as tens of thousands of acres of lakebed are left high and dry around the lake over the next decade.
The money from Leo’s foundation will help pay for 20 more monitors and was part of a $20 million grant to 100 nonprofits fighting climate change, notes Big Think.
And this all comes at an important time for the Salton Sea and anyone who lives near it (you!), as pointed out by the Sacramento Bee.
In 2003, with cities in Southern California thirsting for water, the state struck a deal to divert a large amount of water from farms to cities. Because this diversion would cause the level of the Salton Sea to drop – generating dust and massive habitat destruction – the agreement required the Imperial Irrigation District to put additional water into the sea for 15 years while the state implemented restoration projects.
Fifteen years have gone by and the state has done very little. Not a single project to control dust or create habitat at the sea has been built.
Meanwhile, the situation at the sea has deteriorated. When the mitigation water is turned off at the end of this year, huge expanses of lake bed will produce plumes of toxic dust that will further pollute the air breathed by hundreds of thousands of people that live nearby. Tens of thousands of acres of habitat will dry up and disappear and dozens of bird species will be left without a place to eat, rest and survive.
So yeah, it’s pretty bad. Props to Leo for stepping up.