By Patricia Danflous
Passion, persistence and performance are qualities defining the most talented thespians. Actress Daryl Hannah understands the passion to entertain, the persistence to pursue a role and the dedication to flawless performance that has marked her stellar film career from Blade Runner and Splash to her current Netflix series Sense 8. She brings similar traits to her campaign for a cleaner and more sustainable world. Arrested more than once in front of the White House protesting the Keystone pipeline, Hannah is not one to work quietly behind the scenes. Acknowledging that she takes some pride in being “the odd man out,” she has led or joined protests championing causes ranging from climate change to protecting urban farmers.
In this issue of Inspire Health, Hannah shares thoughts on her personal pledge to healthy living in a healthier world.
Your commitment to a plant-based lifestyle and promoting an ethical, sustainable world began at a young age. Can you tell Inspire Health readers what prompted you to follow a plant-based lifestyle?
My shift to a vegetarian diet came at the age of seven and it wasn’t a decision that I made because of the environmental or health ramifications. That is a terrific bonus I learned about much later. My change was borne from a purely emotional reaction.
I was vacationing with my parents when we stopped at a restaurant, which I did not like so I asked to stay in the car. After some time I got bored and went for a walk around the parking lot. I came upon a truck filled with baby calves. I made friends with one calf in particular kissing him through the truck’s grate. When the driver came out, I asked him the calf’s name and he said “veal, tomorrow morning at seven.” That was it for me. I could no longer disassociate the food on my plate from the animal it had been. Gnawing on the flesh of these creatures was just too visceral and gnarly for my sensitive young self.
When and how did your environmental passion emerge?
I think when one is empathetic and curious, discovering how cruel and unethical humans can be, it’s quite a shock. My uncle Haskell Wexler is quite an amazing activist and filmmaker who has made many film entries about human rights issues and dangerous energy practices. Learning about his work as a young teen was probably what sparked a lot of my moral outrage and spurred my self-education and early activism. I held the boom microphone for him on a few documentaries dealing with protests of nuclear power and other human rights issues.
Similarly, was there a specific inspiring incident that fostered your passion for the environment?
Honestly, it just seems like common sense to live in concert with your surroundings. I had always admired simple ways of living and the tremendous wealth of indigenous knowledge.
Who are your heroes and heroines in the environmental arena?
My heroes have always been those who are willing to go beyond their comfort zone to take a moral stand. People like Martin Luther King in the past, and contemporaries like Julia Butterfly Hill, Tim DeChristopher and Somaly Mam, who helps girls out of slavery, or what Malala has done for girls’ education. There are so many heroic souls, but I’m just as influenced by the people I meet when participating in these struggles. I see all these issues as connected.
What fuels your passion as an environmental advocate? Do you have discouraging moments?
It can be incredibly overwhelming and discouraging when you recognize the magnitude of the environmental crisis we face; that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction, that the oceans are acidifying, the water crisis, etc. But those moments are never more powerful than the love that drives one to protect those things.
What we’re up against is primarily the monetary concerns of corporate controlled governments. And in truth, there are more of us than them, that’s why information is so crucial. People need to be deeply informed, not simply distracted, and then they will be motivated into action. Witnessing this awakening happening is giving me great encouragement.
Author Kurt Vonnegut said: “I really wonder what gives us the right to wreck this poor planet of ours,” and “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” What is your mantra?
I love Kurt Vonnegut. My mantra is “love life,” because I believe people protect what they love.
What inspired you to create your website, DH Love Life?
When I first tried to get off the grid when I was building my home I had a very difficult time finding
information and resources. Then once I did it, I was inundated with questions about what type of energy, fuel and food was the most sustainable, ethical, accessible, reliable, etc. My website dhlovelife.com was my first homemade attempt to create a one-stop-shop site that answered those questions, inspire people and get them engaged and empowered.
Do you have any advice about simple ways in which our readers can begin to make their own lives and homes more eco-friendly?
Be mindful and get informed and then let your voice be heard. Never stop.
You once owned a Chevy El Camino that ran on biodiesel. How do you get around now that you’ve sold it?
I had found another diesel El Camino before I sold my first one – so I still drive the El Camino that runs on straight hemp oil or biodiesel from waste.
“My mantra is ‘love life’, because I believe people protect what they love.”
Daryl plays the metaphorical mother to the 8 who make up the cast of hyper-interconnected characters in the hugely popular metaphysical Netflix series Sense8. The show centers on eight characters from different countries, different racial, economic, and social backgrounds and even different sexual orientations as all discover they can connect through their senses and that they are being pursued because of it. The first season of the series written and directed by the talented Wachowski siblings is already out and Season 2 begins production this spring. Check Netflix for more information about Sense8.