Global Warming’s spokeswomen heats up the debate

Environmental activist and producer Laurie David spoke at UVM’s Ira Allen ChapelWednesday, in an attempt to light a fire under those who have the power to cure the global warming trend – everybody, according to her.David produced “An Inconvenient Truth,” and recently published “Stop GlobalWarming: The Solution is You!” She is also the wife of actor, comedian and producer Larry David, who was just one of the topics of conversation.Vermont Cynic: UVM and Burlington are known for fostering activism. What advice do you have for activists – hardcore and otherwise?Laurie David: I think one of the things that this campus has to start doing is getting better at promoting itself. It seems like there’s a lot happening on this campus in terms of [global warming], but I don’t think a lot of people know about it. So I think that part of the activism is getting heard, getting the word out. It’s everybody’s responsibility to influence everybody else.VC: How do we influence every one else?LD: The way that I’m doing it is by trying to explain to people how personal this issue is. Global warming is not about what’s happening to the glaciers. It’s about what’s happening to Vermont. Your state is in serious peril. So this is personal now. This is about you, this is about maple syrup, this is about the ski industry, this is about all the things that Vermont depends on – it’s part of the identity of the state. The thing that has to happen is for people to start connecting the dots between what we’re doing and what’s happening.VC: Sometimes you have to play to peoples’ interests, like the monetary costs.LD: People have to understand the economics – what this is going to cost at some point. The cost of doing nothing is so much more expensive than the cost of doing something. But I, to some extent, resent the fact that everything has to be explained in dollars and cents. Isn’t it enough to think that we’re losing species? Is it not enough incentivethat we just had the warmest year in the history of record keeping? VC: Why, with such a universal topic, is it taking so long to see tangible results?LD: I think people have to understand how it affects all of us. That’s one of the reasons why I started this virtual march, which is on the Internet (http://www.stopglobalwarming.org). This is a movement. So how do you get people engaged? I’m doing whatever I can think of. I made two filmslast year, I wrote this book, I’m speaking at colleges. Everybody has to use what they have available to get the word out. VC: Do you see the new Congress doing anything in the way of progressive environmental legislation?LD: Yes! I think they already have. The first thing Nancy Pelosi said to George Bush when she met with him was that energy security is a top priority. The first thing Barbra Boxer said is that she’s going to hold global warming hearings. I’m hopeful. And by the way, I honestly believe this: the change that we’re talking about has to happen while these guys are in office. That’s two more years. I’m not waiting till ’08 for a new presidency. We have to face this now. Also, the weather is going to cooperate. We’re going to go through this freakishly warm winter and extreme weather trends are going to happen that will make people understand. Hurricane Katrina – that was a moment when people connected the dots. But things don’t change till people demand it. So we have to get people demanding it.VC: Has being a woman played a role in your success so far?LD: No, but I think that women are uniquely positioned to help this movement grow. They’re natural nurturers, they can multitask … And I think because we’re moms, we have something in us that is going to say “enough is enough.” My own mentors are allmen. VC: What was the political response to “An Inconvenient Truth?” Was it partisan?LD: It was a concern when making the movie. This is about everybody. It’s not going to work if it becomes just a project of the Democrat or Liberal party. I think that the film did straddle that pretty successfully. The evangelical community was very supportive.Two weeks ago 4,000 churches and temples screened the film around the country. That’s huge. The only negative political response, really, that I heard, was from the President of the United States who, when asked by a reporter, “Are you going to see ‘An Inconvenient Truth?’ very glibly said, “Uh, doubt it.” It’s the least gracious thing I’ve ever heard an elected official say. Doubt it? So all of America’s going to see this film, but you doubt you’re going to see it?VC: How, in an economy built on consumerism, can we get businesses to lower their energy waste?LD: One thing is to educate people about how things are made. Another thing is to educate businesses on how they run. I think that there is a huge shift happening in businesses now. When you have a company like Wal-Mart saying that they’re going toreduce their carbon content, and that they put a mandate out to 600,000 suppliers saying, “You have to change your packaging, or there’s going to be a problem.”VC: Is Larry David like he is on the show?LD: Yes. VC: How do you live with him? LD: That’s a really good question. But you know what the weird thing is? People are starting to ask how he lives with me!