UCLA IoES Award Acceptance Speech
February 22, 2019, 8:47pm

I want to thank Norman Lear and Dr. Michael Oppenheimer for their kind words.

And many thanks to UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability for this wonderful award. I am humbled and honored.

After Chernobyl in 1986, when I read about the clouds of radiation moving across the world and contaminating the air, the food and the water, I was frightened to death…and horrified by the fire in the reactor that couldn’t be put out for 10 days. A 1,000-mile area around the town will be uninhabitable for hundreds of years.

I thought then, how can we allow this kind of threat to our environment? I had to do something.

Fortunately, as a member of the Hollywood Women’s Political Committee I was surrounded by many astute women, and we put on a concert in my backyard, as Norman mentioned, called One Voice to support six senatorial candidates who shared our views about protecting the planet. And we were thrilled when five of the six candidates were elected, which turned the Senate over to the Democrats and made it more receptive to environmental concerns.

If I was scared thirty years ago by one reactor exploding in Chernobyl, I’m ten times more frightened now. Our current president has withdrawn from a landmark nuclear treaty with Russia, which could prompt a dangerous arms race, and he’s eager to share our nuclear technology with Saudi Arabia, against the advice of the National Security Council and potentially violating the law.

This president doesn’t seem to understand that nuclear proliferation is a threat to our environment…but he has no interest in the environment. He willfully ignores the clear science and pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. Meanwhile the world continues to heat up rapidly…the ice caps are melting much faster than we thought. Many politicians, with backing from the fossil fuel industry, are sitting around saying, “Well, this may be a problem in the future. It’s not a major problem now.” How short-sighted!

I’ve always been struck by the Iroquois’ Seven Generations principle. Before they made any decision, they considered the impact it would have seven generations to come. It wasn’t only about today. It wasn’t about profits. It was about the health of the earth for future generations. I recently became a grandma and I can’t help but wonder what kind of planet will be left for my granddaughter…and yours…after unrestrained climate change.

How can our current administration not grasp the dire situation we’re in? The recent UN report warned that we only have 12 years left to avert a catastrophe. The Defense Department recently recognized global warming as a national security threat. And what is this president’s response? He says, “I don’t believe it.” But people are dying from huge hurricanes, fires and floods. That’s the reality due to new extremes in weather, but our “reality-show” president won’t acknowledge it and doesn’t seem to care. The only national emergency he sees is his wall. Meanwhile he’s ignoring the real national emergency…climate change. 

We know what causes it. We know we have to reduce carbon emissions in the atmosphere. And yet this administration won’t do anything about it, which is heartbreaking. They even removed the words “climate change” from government websites, as if that would make the problem go away. This is about dumbing down America…they want to keep people ignorant so voters don’t realize how serious the problem is.

We do not have the luxury of time to drag our feet any longer, arguing over regulations and how much money corporations can make from fossil fuels. It is imperative for all of humanity that we act NOW.

Where is the consciousness behind allowing corporations to pollute the environment? This administration wants to rewrite the rules and let coal companies emit higher levels of mercury. They are willing to destroy our air and water for short-term profits, but it comes at what cost? The overuse of pesticides is killing bees and butterflies. How can we watch those populations plummet and not fear for their survival, which is so crucial to our own?

But it is not all doom and gloom. There is hope, if we invest in the technology and the genius of our own people. The profit is there inside the energy innovations that will save us, and the planet. And we must get this message across to the public. We don’t need more pollutants like coal…there is actually more money to be made by being responsible and doing it right. We don’t want to go back to the past. We want to invest in the future. The UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability is harnessing that spirit of innovation, and its students are our future as they actively search for sustainable energy solutions.

It is a moral and ethical imperative for all who share the earth to think of the future of humanity and the planet. This is nothing new. As far back as the writing of the Talmud, it says whoever saves a life, saves the entire world. And there is no life without a healthy environment.

I’m glad we’re gathered here tonight because we all recognize the importance of this fight. But there are many people who don’t. I believe in the power of one voice. And if we each use it to speak out…especially about climate change…we can make a difference. We’re dealing with life and death issues here. It’s people’s lives andlivelihoods that are in danger, which is causing not only physical distress but also emotional distress.

I think we need to make all our voices heard…shout it, sing it, write it, whatever you have todo…to STOP this insanity of denying proven science!

Thank you.