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Earth Month keynote speaker urges audience to up environmental advocacy


Rob Caughlan, this year's keynote speaker for Ohio University's Earth Month, addresses an audience in OU's Walter Hall on Thursday. Photo by CG Photo Editor Elizabeth Linares.

By Kelly Doran, CG News

Robert Caughlan, keynote speaker for Ohio University’s Earth Month, began his speech by telling the audience that people have made a lot of progress, though not enough, since the first Earth Day 41 years ago.

Caughlan has been a surfer for 50 years and an environmental activist for about 40 years.  He has worked with multiple political candidates and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He has also produced and directed a documentary and founded a company and organization.

Caughlan spoke to the audience about current environmental problems and about how people can help with those problems.

“I think it’s really important to enjoy your activism.  I don’t like zealous. I don’t like people that are sanctimonious and holier-than-thou,” Caughlin said. “We have to watch out for that when we’re passionate about things, that we don’t become so obnoxious that we actually hurt our cause rather than help it.”

Caughlan discussed pollution, overpopulation, climate change and pandemics, but he also mentioned success stories about endangered species such as eagles, pelicans, whales, elephant seals and condors.

“There are no big magic solutions to any of these problems.  There can only be thousands of little solutions,” Caughlan said.

Caughlan explained that with climate change, the weather will get more extreme.  He cited multiple examples of extreme weather described in articles by The New York Times, like the drought in Texas that caused a fire that burned of 450 square miles of land.

“You kind of wish, just wish, [climate change deniers would] turn on the television and look at the weather channel or read a newspaper because it’s happening,” Caughlan said.

He said there have been five mass extinctions in the history of the planet and that scientists are calling present trends the sixth extinction.  He said the rate of species loss right now is a thousand times higher than the normal rate.

“Sometimes we get accused of being idealistic because we care about critters or we care about the whales or we care about saving the planet.  Now to me, protecting the planet doesn’t really seem too idealistic, it seems kind of pragmatic, it seems like that’s a good idea.  Survival is not a bad concept,” Caughlan said.

He also discussed the 90/10 law, which states that 10 percent of people influence the other 90 percent.  The 10 percent are opinion leaders.

“You have a lot more influence than you may understand,” he said.

Caughlan encouraged the audience to think long term and to use their education, skills and concern to become “opinion leaders.”  He also reminded the audience of how large the issues are that need to be dealt with.

“I recommend to everybody to go fall in love with some aspect of nature,” he said.

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