George Lucas Educational Foundation
Social and Emotional Learning

Laurie David: Celebrity Author and Environmental Activist

In a new book on climate change, a celebrity champion of sustainability inspires kids to teach their parents.
    Credit: Indigo Flores

    "We need kids in America tohelp educate their parents," Laurie David says about thetarget of her book TheDown-to-Earth Guide to GlobalWarming, published last monthby Scholastic Books. David, until recently married toLarry David, creator and star of theHBO television series Curb Your Enthusiasm,has become one of America'smost vocal celebrity proponentsof sustainability.

    After coordinating guesttalent at the David LettermanShow and managing a stable ofnationally known comedians,David found a new andpassionate focus in the growingconcern over global warming.As her ex-husband oncedescribed her transformation,not entirely facetiously, "I meta materialistic, narcissistic,superficial, bosomy womanfrom Long Island -- the girl ofmy dreams. But then, after a few short months, I began to sense thatsomething had changed. She began peppering her conversationwith words like 'ozone layer,' 'sustainable forestry,' and 'toxic runoff.'What was now all too obvious was that I, Larry David, the shallowestman in the world, had married an environmentalist."

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    Laurie David began working on the Natural Resource DefenseCouncil in the mid-1990s and served as a producer for former U.S. vice president Al Gore's2006 Oscar-winning documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. She alsowas executive producer for the 2006 HBO global warming primerToo Hot Not to Handle and helped create the 2005 Stop GlobalWarming Virtual March. Last spring, David went on the road withmusician Sheryl Crow for the Stop Global Warming College Tour.

    For her efforts, David has been named Glamour magazine's2006 Woman of the Year and one of Rolling Stone magazine's "25global warming heroes and warriors." She also guest-edited Ellemagazine's May 2006 green issue and has been interviewed onOprah and profiled by the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Outside,Vogue, House & Garden, and other national publications.

    David's determination in recent years is to bring the facts aboutglobal warming into America's schools as early, as often, and aspowerfully as possible. Sheemphasizes that kids need to bemobilized as the "true agents ofchange," because they are "theones most readily empoweredto spread the word about thethreat to the world that they aregoing to inherit."

    The road to mobilizingAmerica's students has hadmore than a few speed bumps forthe activist-producer. Followingthe unexpected success ofAn Inconvenient Truth, Davidoffered 50,000 free DVDs of thedocumentary to members ofthe National Science TeachersAssociation. She was shocked,but not surprised, when theNSTA refused to distribute thework. As she later complained ina 2006 Washington Post op-edpiece, the NSTA "didn't want tooffer political endorsement" toa work coming from what theylabeled "a special interest."

    David, with two school-age childrenof her own, was motivatedto write a book addressing whatshe sees as "the anxiety kidshave for this huge problem." According to David, The Down-to-EarthGuide is designed to "de-wonkify" the issue of global warming. Thebook uses colorful graphics and compelling text to inform kids, forexample, about the huge energy drain caused by leaving batterychargers for their electronic gadgets and toys plugged in. To presshome the point, she writes metaphorically that "every plug isconnected directly to a coal-driven power plant."

    Schools need to become centers of sustainable thinking, Davidsays. At her children's southern California school, for example,no-idle zones were mandated in drop-off and pickup lanes toprevent pollution and save fuel. Other school-based activitiesshe recommends involve developing no-waste cafeteria lunches,utilizing recyclable containers, and using "nonvirgin" paper forboth cleanup and classroom uses.

    David's avidity for the issues surrounding global warming have hadan effect not only on schools around the country but also on those she'sassociated with. In Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David drives a veryun-Hollywood Toyota Prius. And she convinced her publisher toprint her book on recycled paper using soy-based ink. Not bad fora once-superficial girl from Long Island.


    Richard Rapaport is a political and architectural writer who contributes regularly to Edutopia.

    Green Heroes > Jessica Assaf