Bill McKibben, Daniel Ellsberg headline Right Livelihood Laureates' Conference at UC Santa Cruz

Recipients of the "Alternative Nobel Prize" gather to advance social and environmental justice; public events focus on climate change, water, nuclear threat

Photo of Bill McKibben
Climate change activist Bill McKibben, co-founder of, and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, below, are headlining the Right Livelihood Conference that takes place May 15-17 at UC Santa Cruz. The campus was designated the first Right Livelihood College in North America in 2013, and this is the first time recipients of the "Alternative Nobel Prize" will gather for a North American Regional Conference.
Photo of Daniel Ellsberg

Climate change activist Bill McKibben and whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg are two of the crusading global leaders gathering May 15-17 at UC Santa Cruz for the Right Livelihood Conference, a three-day series of public events focused on advancing social and environmental justice.

The conference will bring together U.S. and Canadian recipients of the Right Livelihood Award. Dubbed the "Alternative Nobel Prize," the award was established in 1980 "to honor and support courageous people and organizations offering visionary and exemplary solutions to the root causes of global problems." Presented annually in Stockholm, the annual award is usually shared by four recipients, or laureates, who are nominated through a process that is open to all.

McKibben and Ellsberg will be joined by 15 other laureates for the first North American Regional Conference. It will take place at UC Santa Cruz, which in 2013 was designated the first Right Livelihood College in North America.

"Kresge College is excited and honored to host this historic conference, which creates a space for these extraordinary leaders to collaborate and find dialogue with our own community," said Ben Leeds Carson, an associate professor of music and provost of UCSC's Kresge College. "The Common Ground Center at Kresge College is dedicated to education and activism about human rights, cooperative economies, and the protection of diverse, sustainable ecologies. When you add Kresge’s broader commitments to service-centered education, media literacy, and the free press, this conference promises to ignite powerful new possibilities both locally and internationally.”

The public is invited to attend free events, including a day-long teach-in with laureates. Seating at all events is limited and advance registration is requested. A full schedule of events is online; highlights include:

Tuesday, May 15

• Laureates Bill McKibben and Sheila Watt-Cloutier

Climate Justice: A Conversation with Bill McKibben and Sheila Watt-Cloutier

The Social Sciences Inaugural Kamieniecki Lecture in Environmental Policy

7:30 p.m., Peace United Church, 900 High Street, Santa Cruz


Wednesday, May 16

• Laureates Maude Barlow and Robert Bilott

Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever

7 p.m., Kresge Town Hall, UC Santa Cruz


Thursday, May 17

• Teach-in with laureates Amory Lovins, Frances Moore Lappé, Wes Jackson, Maude Barlow, Pat Mooney, Alice Tepper Marlin, Tony Clarke, Paul Walker, Jamila Raqib, Yannick Beaudoin

A Day of Teaching and Activism for Human Rights, Sustainability, Social Justice, and Media Reform

9:45 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Colleges 9/10 Multipurpose Room, UC Santa Cruz

• Laureates Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, and journalist Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! 

A Conversation with Daniel Ellsberg and Amy Goodman 

7:30 p.m., Colleges 9/10 Multipurpose Room, UC Santa Cruz

The conference is being supported by numerous campus units and organizations, including Kresge College and the Common Ground Center, as well as the Division of Social Sciences, which underwrote the Tuesday evening program with Bill McKibben and Sheila Watt-Cloutier.

"Climate change is the most dire environmental challenge we face, with potential impacts and consequences for everyone and every ecosystem on the planet," said Katharyne Mitchell, dean of the Social Sciences Division. "This program was the perfect opportunity to kick off The Kamieniecki Lecture in Environmental Policy, endowed by my predecessor Sheldon Kamieniecki. We are delighted to support it."

The Ellsberg event is part of the 2018 Conference of North American Right Livelihood Award Laureates and the Media and Society Series at Kresge College. Additional support for the conference came from the UCSC Foundation; UCSC Blum Center on Poverty, Social Enterprise and Participatory Governance; the UCSC Everett Program for Technology and Social Change; the Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems; University Relations; the Science and Justice Research Center; the UCSC Sustainability Office; the Environmental Studies Department; the UCSC Heller Chair in Agroecology; Rachel Carson College; and the Headley Chair for Integral Ecology and Environmental Justice.