Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard
CORRECTION (ran March 13, 2007): During a keynote address at the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference at the University of Oregon on March 1, speaker Robert F. Kennedy referred to the country's "negligent and indolent press." A story that appeared on March 2 on Page C1 contained an incorrect quote.
Two big-name environmental advocates helped kick off the Public Interest Environmental Law Conference on Thursday night, lending some star power to the 25th staging of an event that has become a rite of late winter at the University of Oregon Law School.
Internationally known physicist, ecologist and author Vandana Shiva and environmental lawyer, radio host and author Robert Kennedy Jr. shared the lectern for the opening address of the conference before a packed house in the Erb Memorial Ballroom. Shiva spoke of biodiversity, ecology and what she called the "seed wars" being waged by corporations seeking intellectual property rights for crops. Kennedy discussed the undue influence of big corporations on the U.S. government, the perversion of the free market economy and the failure of what he called a "negligent and indignant press."
Both speakers issued calls for action by those in the audience.
"It's time for those of us who know what it is that makes this nation worth fighting for to stand up and take it back from those that don't," Kennedy said in closing his hour-long speech.
The keynote addresses marked the first day of what was billed as "the premiere annual gathering for environmentalists in the world." The conference continues through Sunday and features a number of keynote addresses including one by two-time vice presidential candidate Winona LaDuke.
Launched 25 years ago by a group of 15 speakers and 75 lawyers, students and activists, the conference has grown into a four-day event that attracts thousands and includes panel discussions, films and workshops. Along with law students and lawyers, the event also draws activists and community members. Law students organize the conference.
"I think this is a fabulous conference because it brings people from all over the world and all walks of life," said Vera Smith, a land-policy advocate for the Wilderness Society, a nonprofit organization in Golden, Colo.
Smith was one of those lucky enough to get a ticket for the opening night speeches. All 750 tickets were snatched up shortly after organizers began offering them in early February. The event was simulcast to audiences in Columbia Hall and two additional rooms in the law school.
Co-organizer Amanda Freeman attributed the big crowds to the presence of the speakers, both high-profile figures in the environmental movement. Shiva's presence attracted the television cameras of PBS' "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," which plans to air an interview with the anti-globalization activist. …