The Wallis Annenberg Center will be the epicenter of laughter tomorrow night as the Natural Resources Defense Council hosts an all-star benefit entitled Stand Up! For the Planet. Comedy greats Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Larry David, Tig Notaro, Martin Short, Jerrod Carmichael, J.B. Smoove, Pete Davidson and Tony Hale. The NRDC, a nonprofit organization, has been working to protect the environment and lead humanity toward a more sustainable future for nearly half a century. NRDC President, Rhea Suh, shares insights on fighting the good fight to protect the planet with humor and optimism.
What are the NRDC’s roots and its mission today? Rhea Suh: The NRDC was found the year I was born, 1970. It is the first organization that combined legal tactics and environmental concerns. In the early days the NRDC was instrumental in the passing of environmental laws, such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Just last month we helped the people of Flint, Michigan win the case that will require the city of Flint and the state of Michigan to replace the lead pipes that contaminated their water.
How is the NRDC coping with the current administration’s denial of climate change and roll back of environmental regulations? RS: Part of the disturbing rhetoric from the Trump administration is the idea that you can’t have environmental protections and a strong economy. The NRDC is committed to exposing that narrative. There are three million people who wake up every day and go to jobs in the clean technology and clean energy sector. I bristle at the idea that these jobs aren’t as important as jobs in, say, the coal industry. The exciting part of this is that many companies are going above and beyond environmental regulations. Walmart just announced that its suppliers must eliminate a gigaton of greenhouse gases by 2030 and Tesla was recently ranked the most valuable automaker in the United States. There are hard numbers and facts backing up the push expand the new economy that turn old perceptions about conservation on its head.
Why do you think that comedy is such an important way for the NRDC to get the word out? RS: Environmentalists get a bad rap for being too serious and wagging fingers, but I find that we are optimists. Comedy allows us to keep joy in the work we are doing and to keep our activism energized.
How did Stand Up! For the Planet come about and what are you most looking forward to on Tuesday? RS: Laurie David is on our board and she is a true force of nature. She has pulled together a great line-up. I can’t wait to see Larry David and all of the performers, particularly Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Her role as Selina Meyer is such a perfect caricature of the sorts of people we work with and brush up against in Washington. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a treasure.