Erin Brockovich
Erin Brockovich

Talking with environmental champion Erin Brockovich is a surreal experience.

While discussing her own fame, passion for the environment and the biographical legal drama bearing her own name, it’s easy to envision Julia Roberts portraying Brockovich in the Oscar-winning role.

During a telephone interview last week, Brockovich laughed at the notion. But that movie transformed her into a celebrity of all her own.

In the 1990s, Brockovich was instrumental in building a case against Pacific Gas & Electric Co. involving groundwater contamination in the small town of Hinkley, California. Lacking a law degree or related expertise, she was hired as a legal assistant by the late attorney Ed Masry.

More:Environmentalist Erin Brockovich speaking at KSU Stark on Sept. 13

And through doggedness − along with spunk and colorful language − Brockovich helped expose water contamination caused by the company, leading to a then-record $333 million settlement.

Environmental activist Erin Brockovich and her associate Bob Bowcock talk to Satellite Beach and other residents during a town hall at Kingdom Gate Worship Center.

Brockovich heads Tuesday night to Kent State University at Stark in Jackson Township as part of the Featured Speakers Series. Tickets are required, and the event is at full capacity. Brockovich will speak at the Timken Great Hall at the KSU at Stark Conference Center. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. and Brockovich will speak at 7:30 p.m.

“I don’t think we’re any better off,” she said of the environment compared to the ’90s. “I think we’re actually worse off than when I began my work in Hinkley, and I think the thing that I feel today is absolute frustration and disappointment that we’re here, because we should have known, we may have known, but we’ve failed to act to the point where we’re now in a crisis.”

“… I look at business models,” Brockovich added. “The idea that you want to kick the can down the line because of your profits and you don’t invest in the upfront on your infrastructure, your water systems, your electrical grids, but to choose to kick the can down the line is exactly what I feel has happened with leadership…”

31. Erin Brockovich     • Played by:  Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich" (2000) This film is a dramatization of the true story of Erin Brockovich, played by Julia Roberts, a legal clerk and environmental activist who takes on a giant energy company for contaminating drinking water.

‘We’re going to have to change some of our ways.’

Government and industry have lacked a collective plan, Brockovich said.

“So we’re not in a good position,” she said. “I do believe we can turn out of this, but it can’t come with false promises; it’s got to come with full transparency. It can’t come with blame games. It has to be solution driven, and let’s move forward because the climate and the environment are going to demand of us that we’re going to have to change some of our ways.”

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