Lears' environmental group turns 20

Gala dinner, awards ceremony being held Sunday night

Norman Lear and his wife, Lyn, helped create the Environmental Media Assn. to encourage Hollywood to spread the word about going green.

Now, 20 years later, the group counts the Endangered Species Coalition, the Alaska Rainforest Campaign, the Sierra Club and the World Wildlife Fund among its partners. It has been honored by the White House and praised by Al Gore -- years before "An Inconvenient Truth."

The group has met with hundreds of Hollywood writers, directors and producers, helping them incorporate green themes into their films and TV shows and encouraging them to make those productions more environmentally friendly.

"We thought the world didn't need another environmental organization so much as the environmental organizations needed a straight line to writers, producers, directors and media to encourage them to tell stories about environmental problems and model the behavior," Lear said.

Though the group and its influence have grown greatly over the past two decades, Lear said there is much more work to be done.

"If we can help the populous know as much about climate problems as they know today about 'balloon boy,' we will have succeeded," the 87-year-old writer-producer said.

EMA's latest efforts include assembling a group of young celebrity ambassadors to encourage green behavior among their fans and launching an organic garden program in public schools.

The group is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a gala dinner on Sunday night that doubles as an awards ceremony honoring individuals and organizations that help increase public awareness of environmental issues.

Honorees include entrepreneur Richard Branson, who pledged to invest all proceeds from his Virgin Airlines toward developing clean fuels and renewable energy; the National Geographic Society, which supports environmental education through various programs and grants; Centropolis Entertainment, the production company led by director Roland Emmerich and producer Michael Wimer that released the first carbon-neutral film in Hollywood history, "The Day After Tomorrow"; and singer Jason Mraz, who has committed to green touring and using sustainable textiles.
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