Robert Redford lends name to Pitzer College conservancy

Institute will use documentary filmmaking to illuminate environmental issues

Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif., is creating the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, which will combine art, media and environmental sciences as part of its research and studies.

Redford appeared at the Los Angeles Press Club in Hollywood on Monday to announce the launch of the new conservancy, which is being funded via a gift from Susan and Nicholas Pritzker. The conservancy will be based at a former infirmary on 11.88 acres on the Pitzer campus, with the building repurposed and renovated with sustainable construction methods. The first academic programming will take place in fall 2014.

Redford serves as a special adviser to Pitzer president Laura Skandera Trombley, who said that documentary filmmaking will be emphasized as a way for students to communicate about environmental issues. The institute will work to shape policies on water and energy use, health, air and food quality and transportation alternatives.

The actor and activist recalled growing up just east of Santa Monica in a landscape of communities surrounded by green spaces, only to see the area transform into the sprawling, never-ending city that he compared to a “giant machine made up of buildings and concrete and pavement.”

“It no longer felt like home,” he said.

He said that with the conservancy, he was “really excited about the idea that, before it is too late for Los Angeles, there is something that can be set aside or set up that would not only honor what was, and what could still be, but also could honor the younger people coming in to the world.”

He called the most recent election “pretty scary,” but even though “we got through it the way we did,” “that doesn’t mean it is the end. That doesn’t mean we quit and go home. It is really kind of a beginning,” he said, pointing to the influence of women and younger voters.