Entertainment industry closes ranks to save the environment

Malibu residents John Paul and Eloise DeJoria Vicki Godal / TMT

NRDC’s “Earth to LA!” breaks all previous fundraising records.

By Vicki Godal/Special to The Malibu Times

A plethora of Malibu residents – including Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, John Paul and Eloise DeJoria, and Brian and Gigi Grazer – turned out for the National Resource Defense Council’s “Earth to L.A.!” event at the Wadsworth Theatre on May 6. The event set a fundraising record, exceeding the environmental organization’s financial goals by raising more than $2.6 million dollars. The NRDC advocates for environmental protection, standards and justice.

“The level of support for this event is truly unprecedented,” said NRDC trustee Laurie David who created “Earth to L.A.!” four years ago. “The entertainment community cares deeply about what is happening to our environment.”

Ringmaster Tom Hanks hosted the event for the audience, which donated between $2,500 and $250,000 for seat tickets. Ninety cents of every dollar raised from the event went to NRDC’s programs to protect the planet.

The show was comedy and entertainment with an environmental twist. Hanks made the following announcement before introducing comedian Jack Black.

“The owner of the white Toyota Solaris. Your lights aren’t on or anything, but your tires are deflated … and that’s going to cost you at the pump so let’s get’em pumped up, OK,” Hanks quipped.

HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” creator and star Larry David cited benign cancer on his forehead as one of his reasons for protecting the environment.

“That and not being able to eat tuna,” David said.

Hollywood entertainers appearing in addition to Black who drove onstage in a golf cart were Will Ferrell who satirized President Bush on “Saturday Night Live,” Meg Ryan, Sheryl Crow, Diane Keaton, Stephen Colbert and Willy Nelson.

“Earth to LA!” co-chairs Laurie David and Elizabeth Wiatt highlighted recent NRDC victories. A documentary of the NRDC’s actions in the Port of Long Beach featured people living in San Pedro who were sick due to environmental port pollution. NRDC efforts caused the creation of a green business model for other ports. After a showing of the documentary, David asked the audience to read a letter taped to the bottom of their seats. The letter urged people to take action on the Climate Stewardship Act. This bill, sponsored by senators Rep. John McCain and Dem. Joe Lieberman, would cut global warming pollution in the United States by reducing emissions of heat-trapping gases to 2000 levels by the year 2010. The bill creates a market-based system of tradable allowances to achieve this reduction, and is the first environmental bill of its kind. The bill goes to vote later this month.

Environmentalist and Malibu resident Leonardo DiCaprio addressed global warming.

“I applaud the NRDC for their leadership on what may be perhaps the most pressing and profound environmental challenge of them all, the dangerous warming of our planet caused by our ceaseless addiction to fossil fuels,” DiCaprio said. “Yet, despite all mounting evidence, despite reams of testimony from Nobel Laureates and concerned leaders all around the world, the forces in Washington still deny that human activity causes global warming. America has now walked away from the truth and turned its back on any meaningful effort to save our planet’s future.”

Keynote speaker Robert F. Kennedy Jr. talked about environmental problems he’s encountered working in East Coast waterways ending with the recent discovery of high levels of mercury in his own body.

“The mercury level in my body is about double what its supposed to be,” Kennedy said. “If I were a pregnant woman, the levels of mercury in my system could cause cognitive damage to the unborn baby. It causes brain retardation, severe neurological damage. My doctor didn’t say could cause. He said it would cause. Mercury is poison.”

An entertainment industry-filled audience included Ben Stiller, Rob Reiner, Martin Short, Heather Thomas, Carole King, event co-chairs Peter Morton, Alan and Cindy Horn, committee members Marilyn and Jeffrey Katzenberg, Kelly Chapman and Ron Meyer, and Sarah and Ariel Emanuel.

In response to the “Earth to LA!” message, Gigi Grazer was clear.

“It’s so obvious what we all need to do now – vote,” Grazer said.

Staffed by lawyers, scientists, economists, policy analysts and communication professionals, the NRDC has worked to safeguard and protect the environment for 34 years.

More information can be obtained about the NRDC by calling 310.434.2300.