Rob Caughlan

“The inspiration that you have given to our students is unmatched! In the second week since you gave your talk the students are still quoting you around campus and according to one of my English colleagues, in their papers as well. We would love to have you come back again next year.” read more responses to Rob as a speaker

Richard Reist
Green Health Club
Norco College
Norco, CA

Rob Caughlan has built a career championing environmental protection using political action. His experience as a campaign professional and his work in the government have often contributed the media expertise and political savvy needed by the sometimes politically unsophisticated environmental movement. His speeches about Making a Difference are based upon actually making that difference.

His passion as an environmental activist comes from his love of the ocean. He wrote his first ocean ecology magazine article in 1970. He was one of the founders of Friends of the River. For six years he was the spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Game to promote their Endangered Species Preservation Program. He was the first President of the Surfrider Foundation. Under his leadership the organization grew from 200 members to 25,000 and they won, in terms of violations, the largest clean water action in American history.

As a political pro, Caughlan began as a Field Representative for Leo J. Ryan, who was then a California Assemblyman. He went on to serve as Special Assistant to the Deputy Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). He was also one of the White House staff for President Carter’s Solar Energy Task Force and The Global 2000 Report to the President. He wrote speeches and consulted for various politicians including Dianne Feinstein, Alan Cranston, and Jay Rockefeller.

Rob Caughlan has given hundreds of interviews and speeches about environmental issues. He has also written articles about ocean ecology for various surfer magazines and newspaper opinion pages. He has been featured on national news programs of the time including Peter Jennings, Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite. National Geographic, Businessweek, People, and Vanity Fair have all done stories. Caughlan's speech about protecting sharks from trophy hunters and soup eaters was quoted on the front page of the Sunday New York Times.

His involvement with media productions on important environmental issues include:

Solar Energy - The Great Adventure - starring Eddie Albert (read more...)
Voice of the Planet - a ten hour series on Turner Broadcasting starring William Shatner and Faye Dunaway (read more...)
Future in the Cradle - a documentary on overpopulation (read more...)
Pete McCloskey - Leading from the Front - narrated by Academy Award winner Paul Newman (The first Earth Day in 1970 was co-chaired by then U.S. Congressman McCloskey and then U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson.) (read more...)

As a graduate in Political Science and International Relations, Caughlan’s passion for history is evident in his lecture about the evolution of the American environmental movement. As a political media strategist, his latest major environmental victory was in 2006. It was then that Caughlan was communications director for Jerry McNerney in his epic and victorious battle against Congressman Richard Pombo (whom the Sierra Club had named as “Wildlife Enemy Number One”).

Speaking Topics include:

Making a Difference

Two giant paper pulp mills had violated the Clean Water Act over 40,000 times. The Justice Department and the EPA were sitting on their hands. Finally, a little band of surfers drew a line in the sand. Although it may sound like an oxymoron, the surfers got organized and started the Surfrider Foundation. This is a perfect example of thinking globally and acting locally.

As the former president of the Surfrider Foundation, Rob Caughlan tells the exciting true-life adventure about fighting against big odds in the quest for a cleaner ocean. On the day their surfing attorney Mark Massara turned 30, the surfers won. In terms of money the mills were fined, it was the second largest victory for clean water in American history. But in terms of violations, it was the largest. The message is clear. If surfers can help make the planet better – anybody can!

Earth Day at the G2 Gallery

History of the American Environmental Movement

When the Pilgrims stepped off the Mayflower and onto Plymouth Rock, the environmental consciousness on this continent was already 10,000 years old. Rob Caughlan traces the evolution of environmental thinking over 15 generations – starting with the famous Iroquois law that required thinking about the 7th generation all the way to Earth Day.

He describes the conflict between Native American beliefs in our spiritual connections with nature and the Judaeo Christian dictum that nature must be dominated and subdued. His lecture is laced with inspiration from the writings of Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, Rachel Carson and others. His first person experience as an environmental activist since the first Earth Day in 1970 also brings to life a rich and important segment of American history.

Ocean Protection

The renowned biologist Sylvia Earle said, “Without the ocean, life on earth would simply not be possible. Should we care about the ocean? Do we care about living?”

The horrible Gulf oil disaster, the slow motion whirlpools of floating plastic garbage the size of Texas, the acidification of the seas from global warming, the collapse of fisheries, coral bleaching – all are symptoms of terrible ocean abuse. Rob Caughlan's lecture on Ocean Protection concludes with a call to multiple actions that people can take as activists, consumers and voters to help stop making things worse and start making things better. (read: A Trophy Worth Winning)

Topics Caughlan also speaks on are: overpopulation, endangered species, green burial, and environmental politics.

Appreciated by audiences of all ages, Rob Caughlan was the Keynote Speaker at the Forecastle Festival in 2010:

Rob Caughlan was the Keynote Speaker Forecastle Festival 2010

Rob Caughlan was the Keynote Speaker Forecastle Festival 2010

Responses to Rob Caughlan as a Speaker

“Thank you so much for coming to Ohio University to share your perspectives and some great stories. We really enjoyed having you and hope you feel the same. Your talk sparked a lot of interesting questions and important conversations.”

Mary Lecheweski
Office of Sustainability
Ohio University
Athens, OH

“Rob Caughlan had us in the palm of his hand. He is a natural storyteller, self-effacing, and very authentic. Our students connected with his humor and knowledge and his obvious concern for our planet.”

Tom McEvoy
Associate Dean of Students
Union College
Schenectady, NY

“Emory University students packed the house for a talk and slideshow by Rob Caughlan... (His) attitude and vast experience turned on the crowd. It was fun and inspirational.”

J. Wade
Georgia State Properties Commission
Emory University
Atlanta, GA

“Dynamic, funny, and inspirational... He encouraged everyone to put their heart into environmental education. Participants commented that it felt like he spoke to them as individuals, not as a group of educators.”

Celeste Royer
Statewide Director
CREEC Network
California Regional Environmental Education Community

“A wonderful presentation… there was only positive feedback about how down-to-earth, relevant, and inspirational you were. It is great to have such a positive role model… I can't thank you enough.”

Amy Holloway
Professor of Environmental Science
College of San Mateo
San Mateo, CA

“Everyone loved you. Your speech was thought-provoking and consciousness-raising.”

Judy Trelander
Lake Forest College
Lake Forest, IL

“Caughlan's funny and poignant personal accounts effectively supported his lecture and engaged the audience. His humble demeanor despite extraordinary accomplishment and foresight gives him a type of credibility we do not often see in these sorts of lectures.”

Stephen Po-Chedley
Udall Scholar
Union College
Schenectady, NY