Laurie Ellen David was born Laurie Lennard on March 22, 1958, to a middle-class Jewish family in Long Island, New York. She earned a journalism degree from Ohio University in 1979 and worked as a talent coordinator for Late Night with David Letterman in the mid-1980s. In 1993 she married comedian Larry David, the creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Soon thereafter, Ms. David started her own business as a manager for comedians and comedy writers. She also served as vice president of comedy development for a division of Fox Broadcasting, and developed sitcoms for Twentieth Century Television.
Shortly after the birth of her first child in 1995, David became “very overwhelmed with the realization that I was now irreversibly responsible for this tiny creature…. I remember crying every day at five in the afternoon, the witching hour, my stress level at a breaking point.” Foremost among her concerns were the potential environmental calamities that anthropogenic global warming might bring to bear. She “panicked,” for instance, about the “CO2 pollution” created by the “enormous amount of SUVs on the street.”
Inspired by the passion with which activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. discussed his own environmental views and agendas in a meeting with Ms. David in the mid-1990s, David decided “at that very moment … to devote everything I had to the cause—to become a serious full-timer.” In 1999 she signed on as a trustee for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), where Kennedy was a senior attorney. David subsequently co-founded the NRDC Action Forum, an ad hoc group of affluent and well-connected women whose objective, said David, was “to use our resources to help stop the assault from this current [George W. Bush] administration on our environmental laws.”
In conjunction with Arianna Huffington, Lawrence Bender, and Ariel Emanuel, David in 2003 co-founded Americans for Fuel-Efficient Cars (AFEC), a nonprofit group advocating a reduction in U.S. dependency on foreign oil. One AFEC initiative, the Detroit Project, ran television advertisements accusing gas-guzzling SUV owners of supporting terrorism by spending so much money on fuel imported from the Middle East. These ads featured Americans saying things like “I gassed Kurds,” “I helped blow up a nightclub,” and “I helped hijack an airplane,” and then declaring in unison: “We did it all by driving to work in our SUVs.” “These cars [SUVs] should just have [the word] ‘pig’ spray-painted on them,” said David, who has admitted to occasionally “yelling at people on the highway” for driving fuel-inefficient vehicles.
While impugning American consumers who purchase SUVs, David staunchly defends her own right to acquire high-priced material possessions with enormous carbon footprints, not least her Tudor mansion in the Pacific Palisades and her luxury home in Martha’s Vineyard. “My philosophy about this stuff is, it’s not all-or-nothing,” said David in a June 2004 interview with Grist.com. “A lot of people have that attitude: ‘So you drive a fuel-efficient car, what about your giant house? What about this, what about that?’ … I’m not looking for perfection in any of this. We’re an imperfect people.” It is also notable that David, who dislikes traveling on commercial airlines, often flies in private Gulfstream jets that consume hundreds of gallons of fuel per hour. In a November 2006 interview with The Guardian, she acknowledged: “Yes, I take a private plane on holiday a couple of times a year, and I feel horribly guilty about it. I probably shouldn’t do it. But the truth is, I’m not perfect. This is not about perfection. I don’t expect anybody else to be perfect either.”
In December 2003 David presided over a “Meeting to Change the Leadership in America,” convened by America Coming Together and The Media Fund to devise strategies aimed at thwarting George W. Bush’s re-election bid. In the 2004 presidential race, David enthusiastically endorsed John Kerry, calling him a “great environmentalist.”
In January 2004 the NRDC opened its David Family Environmental Action Center, endowed by Laurie David and her family to promote public awareness and activism vis-à-vis issues like global warming, ocean pollution, everyday toxins, and green building techniques.
At a New York City town hall meeting on global warming in May 2004, David was highly impressed by a slide show that former vice president Al Gore presented. Calling it “the most powerful and clear explanation of global warming I had ever seen,” David immediately made it her “mission” to “get everyone I knew to see it too.” Thus she led and funded the effort to turn Gore’s slide show into what eventually became the famous 2006 documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.
In 2005, Ms. David was fined for wetlands violations at her Martha’s Vineyard home when construction of a stone fire pit, barbecue grill area, and wooden stage for a children’s theater was begun in a wetland without a necessary permit. In 2009, she was fined for yet another wetlands violation. As the Vineyard Gazette reported: “The new infractions occurred during the construction of a tennis court. Workers installed a makeshift road with boards and stones and drove heavy machinery across the resources area making a path to the tennis court site…. Bart Thorpe, who said he is the contractor on the job, took full responsibility for the violations.”
In 2006 David produced a one-hour documentary film for HBO titled Too Hot NOT To Handle, which focused on the effects of global warming in the United States. Also in ’06, Ms. David and Robert Kennedy Jr. co-authored the book Stop Global Warming: The Solution Is You!
In 2007, Ms. David filed for divorce after 14 years of marriage.
In 2008 Ms. David established the Laurie David Foundation (LDF), mainly to support left-wing environmentalist groups and agendas. In 2013 the Foundation awarded $78,500 in grants, gifts, and contributions, of which $75,000 went to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Other noteworthy LDF grantees include the Blue Green Alliance and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
In 2014, David collaborated with Katie Couric to produce the documentary film Fed Up, which alleges that malfeasance by corporate America (particularly “Big Sugar”) is largely responsible for the high incidence of obesity and diabetes in the United States.
Further Reading: “About Laurie David” (LaurieDavid.com); “Laurie David: Hollywood’s Political Power Broker” (Elle.com, 5-5-2012); “Laurie David: One Seriously ‘Inconvenient’ Woman” (NPR.org, 5-7-2007); “An Interview with Hollywood Eco-Crusader Laurie David” (The Grist, 6-17-2004); “Curb Your SUV” (L.A. Weekly, 3-27-2003); “On a Mission to the Stars” (The Guardian, 11-18-2006 interview); “Politics of Hate Won’t Defeat Bush” (by Susan Estrich, 12-4-2003, re: “Meeting to Change the Leadership in America”); “Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurie David Open NRDC Environmental Action Center” (NRDC.org, 1-22-2004); “Activist Laurie David Cited For Wetlands Violations” (Vineyard Gazette, 5-28-2009); “Laurie David Files for Divorce in L.A.” (Hollywood Reporter, 7-20-2007); “New Doc Attacks ‘Big Sugar,’ Corporations for Making America Fat” (Breitbart.com, 1-21-2014).