Robert Redford on Obama's Environmental Agenda and Unveiling a New Conservancy

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Longtime conservationist Robert Redford is relieved that President Obama won re-election but has tempered optimism about what the government can do to address environmental issues and climate change -- especially in the wake of the havoc caused in the Northeast by Superstorm Sandy.

"He's lightly touched on this as an issue, that it's unfortunate that it took a storm of such consequence to draw the attention that could've been drawn by the candidates on the campaign trail," the actor explained to The Hollywood Reporter. "Now I'm hopeful that [Obama] is going to take what his words were and put some teeth behind them."

Redford spoke to THR after a press conference unveiling a Pitzer College conservancy that bears his name. The actor, a trustee at the school, recently wrote that "fierce partisanship" about climate change might be "thawing" in Washington D.C. But that doesn't mean he's holding out too much hope for an emerging legislative consensus on the issue. 

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"It's been tied up for so long, it's been bottled up for so long, it takes awhile to undo things," he said to THR. "Particularly when you have elements still in play there that are living in the 1950s. And their points of view are so narrow and so ideologically driven that it's not likely you're going to see much change there. As a matter of fact, it might provoke them to be even more contentious. So I guess I put my hope more in the people, not so much in current government."

"The Beltway is a very complicated and troubled place," he told THR

The grassroots sentiment dovetails nicely with the newly unveiled plans for the conservancy, named the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability. It is scheduled to begin academic offerings in fall 2014 and will be situated on 11 acres of the school's Claremont campus. Its curriculum is designed to "prepare students to create solutions for the most challenging and urgent sustainability problems" today, according to the school's news release. 

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At the unveiling, Redford explained to attendees how he was drawn to the idea of the Conservancy. He said he grew up in Southern California but was saddened to see "green spaces" between the Santa Monica Mountains and the ocean "become skyscrapers and freeways." 

"I'm really excited about the idea that -- before it's too late for Los Angeles -- that something could be set aside or set up that would not only honor what was and what could still be but also honor the young people coming into the world," the actor said during the conference. Redford has long been involved in environmental causes. He's the chair of the Redford Center, located in Sundance, Utah, which advocates for sustainable intitiatives.

"This last election was pretty scary for awhile," Redford said at the event. "I'm obviously biased in terms of being happy that we got through it to where we did -- but that doesn't mean it's the end. That doesn't mean 'OK, quit and go home.' It's really kind of a beginning."

Email: erik.hayden@thr.com

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