The Staples Center is where the Los Angeles Kings and Lakers are battling in the first round of the playoffs. But across Chick Hearn Court on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day a different battle was taking place.
Inside the Nokia Theatre 4,500 students from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles Schools were treated to a morning screening of “Avatar” followed by a Q&A and contest with director James Cameron and the film’s cast.
The students submitted essays about Earth Day and the finalists read their environmental essays on stage with the winner receiving a $5,000 scholarship.
In addition to Cameron, the judges included his wife Suzy and “Avatar” stars Michelle Rodriguez, Joel David Moore and Giovanni Ribisi.
The event was hosted by activists Magda Rod and Richard Greene who organized the public speaking competition called “The Words That Shook The World.”
Cameron talked about his rural roots in Canada and growing up by the woods as being a driving force in his love of nature. He said he studied science in school before becoming a filmmaker and that “Avatar” was the realization of his dream to make a film about nature.
“I think the important thing about ‘Avatar’ is it
takes place on another planet, it’s a fantasy. But we’re doing that to our planet
for real,” said Cameron, who along with his wife and some of the “Avatar” cast visited the Amazon rainforest to protest Brazil’s plans to build a dam that would hurt the environment and the indigenous community.
“Be curious, be curious about the world,” he pleaded to the students in the audience.
Other speakers at Nokia included Deputy Mayor Miriam Long, Superintendent of Instruction Angela Bass, Marshall Tuck, CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, and former NBA star and vegan activist John Salley.
Salley told the children that their organic, vegetarian lunch that was provided to them saved the life of an animal and made them “prettier.”
“You just got prettier. When you eat vegetables you get prettier. Look how pretty I am,” said Salley, who gave up meat two years ago and lost 40 pounds.
“The most important thing you can do is nourish your organs and
nourish your body,” Salley implored the students.
Outside at L.A. Live’s Nokia Plaza, there was an Earth Day event sponsored by sports and entertainment company AEG, who through a spokeswoman announced to the crowd they were going to be the first company of their kind to release an environmental sustainability report this summer.
Other speakers included ESPN Radio host Jason Smith, Planet Green’s “Wa$ted” host Annabelle Gurwitch, 9th District Councilwoman Jan Perry, Ron Gonen, the Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of RecycleBank and Green Youth Movement founder Allison Maze.
— Josh Marks
Pictures from the event: