Animal Planet’s Jeff Corwin speaks at SEED’s annual event

Lauren Caruba

Animal Planet personality Jeff Corwin spoke to Northwestern students Tuesday evening about the importance of protecting endangered species and the role humans play in animal extinction.

“It is our behavior which is driving all these life forms to extinction,” Corwin told a crowd of about 365 people in Cahn Auditorium. “We know our actions have a reaction. We still choose to live in a way that drives our other earthlings to extinction.”

Students for Ecological and Environmental Development sponsored the event. In his presentation, Corwin highlighted habitat loss, climate change, environmental degradation and the rapid growth of the human population as key elements contributing to animal extinction. Every 20 minutes the world loses another species, he said.

Corwin said although people have “failed as stewards” of other species, it is not too late to try to reverse the damage. He said people should focus on becoming involved in environmental issues in their communities for future generations.

“It’s about making an investment in our children versus punishing them for us not being wise about our planet’s resources,” he said.

Emma Solanki, co-chair of SEED, said the group chose Corwin as its fall speaker for his celebrity appeal and extensive work on animal conservation.

“He talks about really relevant issues that are going on,” the Weinberg senior said.

Corwin is well known for hosting the popular show “The Jeff Corwin Experience” and for producing the new series “Corwin’s Quest,” both on Animal Planet. He also serves as a special correspondent for CBS and as the new wildlife and science expert for NBC/MSNBC.

Corwin kept the audience laughing throughout his presentation with jokes and funny anecdotes about his experiences with nature, including a sleepover with a baby elephant.

Weinberg senior Katherine Woodrow said she enjoyed Corwin’s speech because of his open manner and attitude about environmentalism.

“He isn’t trying to force anyone to think the way he does,” she said. “He facilitates a lot through being an approachable person. It helps get the message across.”

Corwin also promoted his book, “100 Heartbeats: The Race to Save Earth’s Most Endangered Species,” selling copies of it at the door and holding a book signing following his speech.

This is Corwin’s second appearance at NU. SEED also brought Corwin to campus as its fall speaker five years ago, when he discussed his experiences with nature and how they motivated him to become a naturalist. Corwin said the message he was trying to convey to students this time around shifted from 2006.

“The message before was about nature and exploring the planet,” Corwin said. “This was kind of a reminder about where we are and what we need to do.”

Last year, SEED’s fall speaker was Van Jones, a clean energy advocate and former green jobs advisor to the White House. Other past speakers include environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington.

Weinberg senior Adam Masurovsky, co-chair for SEED’s fall speaker, said Corwin represents a divergence from the mostly political speakers SEED has brought in recent years. Because of this, SEED hopes to reach out to more NU students and members of the Evanston community, he said.

“I hope since he’s sort of a popular celebrity figure, at least from back in people’s childhoods when we watched Animal Planet, that it’ll draw a wider audience than just the people who are interested in environmental activism,” Masurovsky said.

Solanki said she hopes Corwin’s appearance will further open students’ eyes to eco-friendly practices.

“Environmental issues have always been important, but now it’s come to the forefront of people’s minds with what’s going on with climate change and your everyday behavior,” Solanki said.