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The rain didn’t damper the festivities Thursday night at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) Gala in Beverly Hills.
“We’ve been praying for water for years and now we get it on the night of the gala!” said Tony Pritzker, who hosted the event with his wife Jeanne at their sprawling estate (their 49,300-square-foot mansion is the second largest residence in Los Angeles).
This year’s festivities honored Pierce Brosnan and Keely Shaye Brosnan for their award-winning documentary Poisoning Paradise, and political commentator and Green for All and The Dream Corps founder Van Jones.
“We are all true heroes of the planet and I applaud you for fighting the noblest of fights,” the former James Bond star Brosnan said to the crowd as colorful footage of ocean life was projected on the top of the giant tent erected to keep guests dry from the wet weather. “My environmental awareness and activism was born out of a love of nature, a love for the ocean and the love of a great woman, namely, my wife Keely, who stands here tonight.”
The Brosnans have been longtime environmental activists. “Together, Keely and I have long focused our environmental advocacy on the oceans and marine mammal protection because we recognize that without a healthy ocean mankind has little chance of survival on this planet,” he said.
Shaye Brosnan spoke of the importance of mentorship in the eco-movement. “Today, more than ever, we need 21st century minds to solve our 21st century problems,” she said. “We must assure that students today have the tools they need to become tomorrow’s leaders. Mentors are essential.”
Shaye Brosnan criticized the Trump White House without saying the president’s name. “We must put pressure on our government and corporate polluters, including the oil and gas industry and the agrochemical industry, to stop devastating our earth, our oceans, our air and our water,” she said. “Those of you who support these values have likely noticed a tendency by the current administration to cast anyone who disagrees with their agenda in a light that suggests that they are somehow un-American. Well, I am here to say that I believe the environment is a bi-partisan issue. And we all must rise to the occasion of creating a better world for ourselves and for our children.”
Jones highlighted that the environmental movement must pay more attention to marginalized and poverty-stricken communities. “When you talk about having a green economy, a clean energy economy, you have an opportunity to take the people who most need work and let them do the work that most needs to be done — re-powering America in a clean way,” he said, adding, “These young people out here on street corners, these young people out here who have been thrown away, who have been looked down on, those young people could be on rooftops right now putting up those solar panels. They can be in homes right now weatherizing and retrofitting. Trust me, lower-income people care more about the environment than high-income people do. They can’t prioritize the same way, but they care.”
Diversity was a big theme for the evening, with many speakers calling for the science community to reach out and engage with more women and people of color. With the launch of the IoES’ Center for Diverse Leadership in Science, board chair Tina Quinn said, “We must make sure the next generation of environmental leaders is diverse.”
Guests at the gala included Courteney Cox, Ellen Pompeo, Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy. Norman Lear was on hand to present to the Brosnans after Cher had to back out at the last minute, while Jones received his award from fellow CNN contributor Bakari Sellers.
It sounds like Transparent star Amy Landecker could have presented to Jones, too. “I’m obsessed with Van Jones,” she told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet before the gala began. “I told my fiancé [Bradley Whitford] that he can’t get mad at me because I am just going to crush out. I am going to blush. I’m going to act like an idiot.”
The gala ended with a performance by the Agape International Choir.
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