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Donor fatigue may be a problem in some quarters of the philanthropic community, but not in Hollywood when it comes to environmental causes.
UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability announced this week that Sumner Redstone has donated $250,000 to support its environmental research, education and outreach — on top of the $1 million raised for the institute this month at a star-studded fundraiser that Sumner attended.
The contributions, UCLA officials say, will help fund research on climate change, urban sustainability and biodiversity conservation. The money also will enable the university to expand its educational efforts to help train “the next generation of environmental scientists,” said institute director Glen MacDonald.
Redstone’s donation was secured largely in part by Hollywood environmentalist Lawrence Bender, a co-producer of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
Bender worked for months to pull together donations and organize the institute’s second annual fundraiser at Jeanne and Anthony Pritzker’s palatial Beverly Crest home on March 5. Celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Courteney Cox, Jeff Goldblum and Zach Braff were among the 350 guests who gathered to raise money for the UCLA program and honor the environmental efforts of Lyn Lear and Gore.
The event included performances by Grammy Award-winner Jason Mraz and comedian Sarah Silverman. But the high point of the evening — and perhaps the trigger for the flood of support — was an unusually passionate and personal speech on global climate change by Gore. Longtime activist Mark Gold, associate director of the UCLA environmental institute, described Gore as “channeling his inner Baptist preacher” at the Pritzker gathering.
At one point raising his voice and pounding the podium, Gore told the crowd that action is needed to stop climate change.
“There are some people who go straight from denial to despair without pausing on the intermediate step of actually solving the problem,” he said. “Some of the damage has been done and will continue to unfold, but it is nothing compared to what would happen if we do not say, ‘All shoulders to the wheel. We are going to change this.’ ”
In addition to Redstone, other supporters of the UCLA institute include Eli and Edythe Broad, Alan and Cindy Horn, Albert Brooks, Larry King, Tom Arnold, J.J. Abrams, Frances Fisher, Laurie David, former California governor Gray and Sharon Davis and Darren Star.
UCLA’s environmental program brings together an interdisciplinary group of 100 faculty members and 800 students to apply themselves to real-world problems on behalf of outside clients. The roster of organizations that have sought the institute’s cutting-edge assistance already includes Heal the Bay, TreePeople, Southern California Edison and the National Park Service.
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