SEED to bring Erin Brockovich to campus

Lauren Caruba , Assistant Campus Editor

Erin Brockovich, environmental activist and consumer advocate, will speak on campus Wednesday.

Instrumental in revealing that Pacific Gas & Electric Company had been poisoning the groundwater supply of the town of Hinkley, Calif., Brockovich initiated the largest direct-action lawsuit in American history. She became a household name in 2000 after Julia Roberts portrayed her in the well-known film “Erin Brockovich.”

Students for Ecological and Environmental Development announced the upcoming event Friday.

Stephanie Fuerte, fall speaker co-chair for SEED and former Daily staffer, said Brockovich’s small start as a clerk with no formal legal training aligns with the message SEED conveys to Northwestern students.

“We look for somebody who can really inspire the student body to make changes in their daily lives in regards to the environment,” the Medill junior said. “Somebody like Erin Brockovich is the perfect person to do that.”

Brockovich’s career will also demonstrate to students how the work of one person can make a significant impact, Fuerte said.

After examining the medical records of Hinkley residents, Brockovich discovered they were suffering from toxic chemicals PG&E had leaked into the town’s groundwater supply. She then helped head a lawsuit in the mid-1990s that resulted in PG&E paying $333 million in damages to more than 600 residents.

Amanda Myers, co-chair of SEED, said Brockovich will draw students from areas of the NU community other than just environmentalism. Brockovich’s work is also associated with law, public health and activism, the Weinberg senior said.

Additionally, Brockovich will appeal to a wider range of students based on the reputation of the Oscar-nominated film, in which Brockovich actually made a cameo appearance toward the beginning as a diner waitress.

“People that are at all wrapped up in TV or movies are instantly going to have more popularity,” Myers said. “Having that mode of communication means that people know her name.”

Since the PG&E case, Brockovich has authored New York Times best-seller “Take It From Me: Life’s A Struggle, But You Can Win” and hosted the Lifetime series “Final Justice With Erin Brockovich.” In January she began an investigation into a disorder affecting New York teenagers involving facial tics and verbal outbursts.

Myers said she hopes Brockovich will talk less about the PG&E case and share more about other projects she is working on.

“I’m actually very curious to learn about what kind of environmental advocacy and activism she’s done since the movie,” Myers said.

Animal Planet personality Jeff Corwin was last year’s fall speaker. SEED also previously hosted clean energy advocate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and environmental activist Van Jones.

Brockovich will speak in Cahn Auditorium on Wednesday from 8:15 to 9:30 p.m. Free tickets for the event will be available at the door.