Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to USC students about creating a greater sense of environmental awareness on campus at Bovard Auditorium on Monday.
The event titled, “An Evening with the Governator: Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Environment,” stressed the necessity for an environmental crusade to halt the progression of global climate change. At the event, Schwarzenegger promoted the creation of tangible generational change in order to prevent an environmental catastrophe in the future.
The event was hosted by the Environmental Student Assembly and the Speakers Committee. Moderators for the discussion included Bonnie Reiss, global director of the Schwarzenegger Institute, and Terry Tamminen, former secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency.
Schwarzenegger has served two terms as the 38th governor of California and currently serves as the chairman for the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy. During the latter half of his term as governor, Schwarzenegger focused on environmental sustainability and global warming. In 2006, he introduced and signed the first national initiative to cap greenhouse gas emissions. That same year, he also implemented the Global Warming Solutions Act in California, which mandated large utilities and business corporations from creating long-term contracts with suppliers who do not meet the state greenhouse gas emission standards.
In 2009, Schwarzenegger created an initiative that enforced automakers to regulate greenhouse emissions from automobile vehicles. Since his appointment as governor in 2003, he has worked to label California as a leader in environmental and climate sustainability.
Reiss said that Schwarzenegger is eager to build and prioritize USC student connections.
“One of the reasons Schwarzenegger even came to USC is because of his [sic] connection to the great students here,” Reiss told the Daily Trojan. “Anytime we hold a symposium, summit or convening, he always made sure that whichever leaders we bring to campus, that our seats were more open to USC students.”
Shawn Rhoads, executive director of ESA, opened the discussion by explaining that ESA works to provide students with stimulating programs by introducing leaders who promote environmental sustainability.
Schwarzenegger opened the event by explaining his previous success in fitness and entertainment. He made connections between fitness and his decision to create an environmental crusade by making legislative change to promote the importance of protecting the environment by contributing in various ways, such as using eco-friendly light bulbs.
“Climate change is an enormous weight that we must lift off of our world. We can lift it, but we must do it together. Together we can do it, together no challenge and no dilemma is too much,” Schwarzenegger said.
Throughout the discussion, Schwarzenegger argued for the implementation of a successful environmental initiative to fight against climate change. He said the future of energy at a global level is found in renewables and named climate change, health, jobs, security and foreign oil dependency as leading issues within the state of California.
“You have the energy … you are young and you can absorb this [information],” Schwarzenegger said. “This is not a dilemma for future generations, it is our challenge.”
Schwarzenegger also explained how the issue of global climate change and the potency of greenhouse gas emissions has been heavily underestimated among legislators within the public policy sector. He also alluded to the challenges of partisan gridlock on the issue in Congress by explaining his difficulties while trying to pass legislation regulating greenhouse emissions.
“When I became governor of California, I promised to continue California’s generation by helping the environment and pumping the environment,” he said.
Schwarzenegger also framed California as one of the largest leader’s in environmentally friendly practices throughout the nation. He said that California’s economy has grown by a 3.6 percent within the last year and how this growth is attributed to the creation of more “green” jobs.
“We ushered in a new California gold rush by creating green jobs,” Schwarzenegger said.
He also told the audience that every individual should take part in protecting the environment.
“We all breathe the same air, we all drink the same water … it is extremely important to take politics out of this and do what is best for the environment,” Schwarzenegger said.
Reiss then asked how Schwarzenegger worked through issues of gridlock.
“Federal government has fell short when it comes to environmental issues … we should not wait for the federal government or Washington to make up their mind and we should not wait for a global agreement,” Schwarzenegger said.
Schwarzenegger then cited R20 Regions of Climate Change, his nonprofit organization that serves at the sub-national level to promote low-carbon and climate-resilient projects. He said that through the guidance of Terry Taminen, author of Lives of Per Gallon: The True Cost of Our Oil Addiction and Cracking the Code: The Key to Sustainable Profits in the New Economy, he was able to understand key environmental issues.
Schwarzenegger and Taminen both agreed that though many try to vilify the government, local policy matters in paving the way for tangible environmental change.
“Even though the institute is focused on many policy areas because basically the institute is a way for Arnold to continue work on the many policy initiatives he did during his two terms as governor, clearly focusing on environmental and climate is something he is passionate about for one, and California has been a national leader in for decades and decades,” Reiss told the Daily Trojan.