Rob Caughlan, the founder of Surfrider Foundation and Friends for the River, emphasized Wednesday the power of student advocacy in solving environmental issues, such as oceanic pollution.
The event was hosted by the Program Board’s Political Student Assembly and was held in The Forum of the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.
Caughlan shared his firsthand experience about how he was the plaintiff of the second-largest clean-water enforcement victory in the nation’s history and also gave insight on his journey riding the environmental “green wave” from its start in the 1970s.
A leader in the American environmental movement who produced multiple educational documentaries about population growth, endangered wildlife and solar energy, Caughlan said a simple love of the environment led to his activism.
“I got involved in the environmental spectrum because I fell in love with the ocean,” Caughlan said. “As a former surfer, I see things in a surfer’s perspective. I think these environmental challenges we face are big waves coming at us, and we either learn to ride them, or we get wiped out by them.”
Caughlan said students must harness their passions to create a healthier world.
“It took me about eight years, but I’m glad I produced [documentaries],” Caughlan said. “Money shouldn’t be the ultimate goal. Your goal should be higher than money. We’re creating the problems, so we have the responsibility to advocate for and solve them.”
Students spoke about their experiences at the event as well. ‘11 alumnus Chris Sanchez and ‘12 alumnus Armand Aghadjanians are two Trojans who exemplify the traits Caughlan was speaking about. They have worked to launch a new environmentally friendly clothing line called Greentag.
“We had this idea at USC together, and what we have since then is a new form of eco-clothing with new sustainable production,” Aghadjanians said.
Both alumni said they realized that the environment plays a large part in the lives of millions of people and have found passion through that idea.
“We’re all really affected by environmental issues,” Sanchez said. “It doesn’t matter whether you live in the big city or out by the beach. Environmental issues affect all of us.”
Other students who attended the discussion expressed a similar passion about solving global environmental issues.
Ivan Kumamoto, a freshman majoring in business administration and co-director of the Environmental Affairs Organization on campus, took inspiration from Caughlan’s talk about taking action and fighting to help the environment.
“Once you find that part of nature that you love, that you’re passionate about, the whole fight makes it so much easier,” Kumamoto said. “Once you have a reason to keep fighting, that’s what keeps you going. He’s just a very inspiring and knowledgeable person.”
Caughlan’s appearance is part of Earth Week at USC. A variety of environment-related events, including the Recycled Fasion Showcase, the Environment Fail and the Campus Eco-Tour have been held in honor of Earth Week.
Krishna Rajagopalan, a sophomore majoring in communication, emphasized the need for Earth Week events such as Caughlan’s environmental discussion.
“It’s an issue that is really important to address,” Rajagopalan said. “By having all these Earth Week events, it really gets the word out to the public.”
Overall, Caughlan’s discussion was not only about advocating environmental issues, but also about life lessons for students looking to find passion in something they can believe in.
“I’m hoping you’ll use education to do something important with your life,” Caughlan said. “If surfers can make a difference, anyone can.”