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Visions of the dire future we might have and the better future we must have were the topics of talks by several environmentalists at Loyola Marymount’s Bellarmine Forum, held October 29-November 3 on the LMU campus.

During the weeklong “Earth To You: Do Something Now” conference, students, faculty and the public saw films and heard lectures from scientists and activists on the condition of Planet Earth, its water, forests, climate changes, air quality, the impact of urbanization, transportation, industry and the environmental movement and its solutions.

Among the speakers were Laurie David, producer of the documentary An Inconvenient Truth and founder of the “virtual march” www.stopglobalwarming.org; Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., chief attorney for RiverKeeper and author of Crimes Against Nature; and Jean-Michel Cousteau, oceanographer and son of famed diver/oceanographer Jacques Cousteau.

Laurie David began her talk by decrying the media’s tendency to stereotype environmentalists as “tree-huggers.”

“Environmentalism is not something you drive to,” said David. “It is the air you breathe and the water you drink. That makes us all environmentalists.”

She then hit the audience with some unsettling statistics: although warnings about global warming have been ignored or trivialized, the facts, according to the world’s leading scientists, show that we have less than 10 years in which to curb the causes of the warming. The recent weather conditions – such as the heat waves of the last year and Hurricane Katrina – are consequences of this warming, along with a gradual receding of the polar ice cap that is causing marine animals to drown and may lead to the extinction of many species.

“There’s now more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than there has been in the last 650,000 years,” David continued. “We are the ones causing this through power plants, cars, dependence on coal and oil.”

But she countered the predictions of gloom with some advice about how everyone can pitch in to contribute to the turnaround, from voting for “green” candidates to buying paper goods made from recycled paper to driving hybrid cars (or driving less) and concluded: “The only thing missing is the will to solve this. It’s not about sacrifice – it’s about change.”

Robert Kennedy, Jr. spoke less about his own work over two decades with RiverKeeper (contributing to the preservation of the Hudson River), than about what he sees as the problem behind all the other problems: the need for uncensored flow of information.

“We have a negligent and impotent press,” said Kennedy. “It is not making the connections.” He repeated observations he had made earlier at the Forum’s conference for the press, that the ownership of almost all media in America by five multinational conglomerates is stifling the free exchange of information, which in turn keeps Americans from knowing what’s going on with the environment (among other things).  As he put it: “We know more about Brad and Jen and Angelina than we do about global warming.”  

Jean-Michel Cousteau offered a less dramatic but no less heartfelt perspective on the state of the earth’s oceans. He showed video footage of the waters around the northwest Hawaiian Islands, underwater footage of sea creatures living their lives and footage of seals lying amidst the detritus of human manufacture – old tennis shoes, makeup products, toothbrushes, etc. Cousteau’s assembled visual evidence attests to the fact that humans are using the ocean as a garbage can but he expressed optimism that we can help to change this.

“We should start to look at nature as a business,” said Cousteau. “If we manage it as a business, then we’re looking at ‘capital’ that has been given to us and we live off the ‘interest’ produced by the capital. We are going way over and heading toward ‘bankruptcy.’”

One thing you can do: Join the Virtual March Against Global Warming at  www.stopglobalwarming.org. 

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