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It was a night of inspiration and exhortation at the 19th annual Global Green Millennium Awards, which honored seven companies and individuals for their work to maintain the world as a life-giving environment in the face of climate change.
At the event, held June 6 at the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel in Century City, California, awards were given to Archbishop Desmond Tutu; Indian activist and thought leader Vandana Shiva; YouTube spoken-word artist Prince Ea; renewable energy investment company Angeleno Group; the Energy Upgrade California initiative; green building leaders JMB Realty; and community leader Ibrahim AlHusseini of the Full Circle Energy fund.
“Everything felt more urgent — because it’s even more obvious now that climate change is affecting us. The tone tonight feels more immediate,” said Cathy O’Neill, one of the fundraiser’s co-chairs and a board member of Global Green USA (she’s also the wife of Modern Family star Ed O’Neill).
Known for its green-building work in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, the group is a solution-focused nonprofit that works with local governments, schools and other organizations to transform building practices to include water-smart features, clean energy and sustainable design.
The night featured plenty of statistics — forests are being destroyed at the rate of 40 football fields every minute; 50 percent of the globe’s trees have been lost over the past century — but what guests gave standing ovations to was the oratory of the creative activists and leaders who spoke. Here are some of the top lines of the night:
1. “We need to shift from the culture of ugly, black fossilized carbon to living green carbon. We need to keep the black stuff underground and increase the green carbon to increase the life on this planet,” said Shiva in her acceptance speech. The Indian activist is famous for her fight to preserve the right of farmers to own their own seeds against large agribusinesses such as Monsanto. “I refuse to accept that seed was something imagined by Monsanto,” she added.
2. “In Los Angeles, you have a very big role to play because you are beyond the lobbying of Congress, you are beyond the narrow interests, you stand for human qualities and those of you who are gathered here of course are here for this planet. Use your freedom for the rest of the world,” said Shiva, directly addressing the Hollywood-heavy audience, which included Stevie Wonder, actress Sharon Lawrence, City of Los Angeles Chief Sustainability Officer Matt Petersen and Global Green USA founder Dr. Les McCabe.
3. “Archbishop Tutu has spent his entire life working to create condition for peace and prosperity and justice and it is unconscionable that the greed of a handful of powerful corporations is putting so much of his life’s work at risk,” said Empire’s Jussie Smollett, who called the retired South African Anglican archbishop “the Arch” in his introduction of the award winner, who’s long spoken out about climate change.
4. “Among the social injustices that must be vanquished in the first half of the 21st century are the crimes we’ve committed ourselves against ourselves, our children and future generations by destroying our very life support system, our own mother earth,” said Archbishop Tutu in a taped acceptance speech.
5. “Hey Fox News, if you don’t think climate change is a threat, I dare you to interview the thousands of homeless people in Bangladesh, see while you was in your penthouse nestled, their homes were literally washed away beneath their feet due to the rising sea levels,” said spoken-word artist and YouTube sensation Prince Ea in his music video — Dear Future Generations: Sorry — that played for the audience. The video imagines a world where humankind’s destructive actions have largely rid the world of trees.
6. “It is up to us to take care of this planet. It is our only home, we must globally warm our hearts and change the climate of our souls,” said Prince Ea in his music video.