|Laura Turner Seydel|
The status of women and reproductive rights is directly correlated to the condition of the earth’s environment and water resources. In honor of women’s history month, Laura Turner Seydel gave a keynote address entitled Women and Water: Empowering Women to Create a Sustainable Future on March 22nd at the Center for Ethics. The event was co-sponsored by the Center for Women and the Center for Ethics and was hosted by 11 Alive news anchor Karyn Greer. On that night, the excited buzz of dozens of supporters followed Seydel into the lecture room. The relationship between the Center for Ethics and Seydel is representative of, “the Center’s growing involvement in issues of ethics and sustainability,” said Sarah Smith, Assistant Director of Strategic Planning at the Center for Ethics. Attendees included Emory University President James Wagner, Ashley Carson from Atlantic Capital Bank, and Alicia Franck from CARE.
A childhood spent playing outdoors and taking care of the environment around her translated into a life’s work in conservation for Seydel. Through her leadership, high impact environmental advocacy projects have reached local, national, and global communities. As the daughter of CNN founder and philanthropist Ted Turner, Seydel has played a crucial role on the board of the Turner Foundation and is the Chairperson of the Captain Planet Foundation.
We sat down with Mrs. Seydel for a press conference before the event and the stories she told illustrate how her personal and professional life are imbued with a deep commitment to preserve natural environments. Seydel’s calling has taken her all over the world but ultimately back to her native Georgia. Her approach is global yet manages to trickle down into grass roots advocacy.
Captain Planet is more than its catchy theme song and characters with names like ‘Earth’ and ‘Heart’; it reaches the television sets of millions of children in 100 countries. The Captain Planet Foundation “empowers kids to take care of their planet” by funding environmental sustainability projects in schools, homes, and communities across the world. Seydel has confidence that there is a global shift in environmental awareness because watching shows like Captain Planet inspires children to take action and lead healthy lives.
Seydel witnessed a successful moment for the Foundation in Accra, Ghana. Fifty career professionals decided to start meeting up as part of the Foundation “to organize community clean-ups and advocacy projects in schools,” Seydel said. Over the course of a few months, the group grew to 215 “planeteers.”
Seydel’s talk to the Emory community outlined an array of troubling global environmental issues. During time spent in Africa, she came to realize that reproductive rights and water management are tied together. With the world population hitting unsustainable highs, the future of fertility drastically impacts the earth’s water supplies. She has found that women all over the world want family planning options but do not have access.
Seydel believes that change starts with women because women hold power as consumers of goods and providers for families. The audience was charged to take action locally with votes and to chart the “national environmental scorecard” of politicians. Internationally, Seydel said, what women need is “encouragement to go to school, reproductive health care, and job training.”
Laura Turner Seydel lives out the lofty goals she has set forth. Her home in Atlanta is the first home in the U.S. to be certified by three of the country’s leading green initiatives. At the start of the press conference she set her re-usable glass water bottle on the table and explained that her commitment to conservation plays out in every moment of her life. Her message was clear: change starts with women. Seydel’s life shows that beyond local, national, or international leadership the real change comes from the moment to moment activism of powerful and passionate women.
|Women and Water Co-Sponsored by the Center for Ethics and the Center for Women|
Photos by Carlton Mackey