By Kathlene McGovern
As we follow Daryl Hannah down into the hollow of her magical property that she shares with three dogs, a cat, a pig, some chickens and an Alpaca, we quickly discover she is the real deal. There are no assistants feeding her lattes and statistics that she can regurgitate back to us. Hannah is a genuine font of knowledge, rattling off tidbits about antioxidant and other health benefits that can be found in the flora and fauna that she spryly flits by as she leads us around the forest-like grounds. She’s like a badass fairy–all flowing blonde locks, five feet of leg and a warrior’s heart that just happens to be made of gold.
Kathlene McGovern: You became a vegetarian at an early age — 11. Did you always have an affinity for the environment and animals?
Daryl Hannah: Well, I grew up in the 42nd story of a building in downtown Chicago so I was raised in an environment that was kind of disassociative in terms of my connection to the natural world, so it wasn’t like I always had this special affinity. I think that we all do; it’s part of our DNA. We are creatures, after all. But when I was about 7, my dad sent me to the camp that he went to when he was a kid; where you live in a covered wagon for two months and you have no electricity. You pitch your own tents and dig the latrines and you take care of your own horses, all the different stuff that a somewhat “extreme camp” experience entails.
Her father saw in her symptoms of being non-communicative and disconnected, and not just from nature, but disconnected in general. She was kicked out of school for not being present and there was speculation that she was autistic or suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome.
DH: I went there for two months every summer and it really — that’s when I started to integrate my life and my mind, with life in the world because it gave me a place where I felt connected. When I was at camp I, uh, got the way the world worked. It made sense to me. It was challenging but, I thought, oh, OK, now I get it. We’re not aliens in this strange place where I don’t fit. It just made sense.
KM: Is that what your environmental activism grew out of? Did you eventually feel so connected that you just had to stand up and say this has to change?
DH: No. My nature has always been to be extremely introverted and shy and reticent. In fact, I’m quite uncomfortable about putting myself out there, unless it’s in the guise of some other character or fantasy and then I don’t have a problem. But I’ve never been a self-promoter which caused me a lot of problems in my acting career because, you know, I’ve never really been so comfortable doing that whole thing, which a lot of actors are required to do as part of their promotional responsibilities. It was just unnatural to me, not to mention terrifying and uncomfortable.
KM: So, where does the courage to speak out now come from?
DH: I’m deeply interested and excited by and engaged in this process of life. I’m fascinated with the world, I’m fascinated by how things work. I’m fascinated with solutions — answers to crises and problems. So the more I learn, I think I have been forced in a way — like compelled — almost as if it’s not even a conscious choice, even though I do believe in making conscious choices, to speak out on behalf of the voiceless or on behalf of a saner, more wonderful option than the one we’ve been, sometimes, choosing.
In the past decade, Hannah has found herself in handcuffs more than once, peacefully protesting the demolition of the South Central Farm in Los Angeles, in West Virginia to stop the wildly destructive form of coal mining, mountaintop removal and most recently, in 2011, during a protest outside the White House opposing the Keystone XL Pipeline.
KM: Are you disheartened that it appears there’s a good chance that Obama will face defeat on his opposition to the Keystone project with a veto-proof majority in the House?
DH: I’m not so sure that he’s opposed to the project. If you look at it, his campaign director was their former spokesperson so you know … and Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief campaign director when she was running for office is now their spokesperson, so they have very close connections. I don’t think he ever meant to oppose it, I think he just thought this was good timing in terms of his reelection campaign. Hannah is referring to Paul Elliot, a high-level campaign advisor in Clinton’s 2008 bid for the Democratic nomination, and Jeff Berman who was the director of delegate selection in Obama’s 2008 primary campaign. Both gentlemen have lobbied for the Keystone XL Pipeline.
KM: There are a lot of people who believe this pipeline will be a great thing for the United States.
DH: There’s so much propaganda about this project. They talk about jobs and use all these words that get people’s emotions engaged. They throw out false numbers and all kinds of things to confuse people and most people don’t have an attention span long enough to find out, really, the truth, the bottom line of these situations. I’m not just necessarily opposed to this one project, which hopes to use a route through our country, jeopardizing our largest fresh water supply so they can sell it on the international market, I am also opposed to further committing ourselves to a fossil fuel dependent future.
It seemed like it may have been a good idea a hundred years ago. Now we’ve learned: Not such a good idea. Not really workin’ out for us. There’s a lot of murder and mayhem and destruction that comes along with that future. And we know there are other options available.
KM: So, other options. Back in 1900 at the World’s Fair in Paris, Rudolph Diesel premiered an engine that was run on peanut oil.
DH: Rudolph Diesel invented the engine so farmers could grow their own fuel. That was the whole point of his invention.
KM: But the type of diesel that large trucks run on nowadays and that ran all those cars in the 80s with their crazy little smokestacks …
DH: Is a byproduct of petroleum. So, what happened is that Rudolph Diesel was found floating in the English Channel and a few years later his engine turns up modified to run on these toxic byproducts of petroleum and that’s what they called Diesel. It had nothing to do with him. He’d roll over in his grave if he knew they named that after him.
KM: You drive a biodiesel car and you also have a “grease car,” right?
DH: Yeah. I have the El Camino, which is both. Basically any grease car, well biodiesel is grease too; it’s just modified slightly with a little methanol and lye to make it thin enough to run in the engine without any modifications. My El Camino runs on biodiesel to warm the engine up and then it switches over to the straight veggie oil, and that’s just a small modification to the engine. And then I have a car that runs on alcohol fuel; the Trans Am from “Kill Bill” runs on straight alcohol fuel, which also can be made from waste.
But Hannah cautions that even biofuels can be made in an unethical fashion, and have been, when people are going into these arenas with the notion of making a giant profit in a short amount of time. She believes that that is a recipe which doesn’t encourage things to thrive, because when manufacturers are going for huge profits and a quick turnaround, they’re not considering the long-term ramifications of their actions and therefore consider methodologies that are, ultimately, destructive.
She points out that regional production of food, fuel, water and energy makes the most sense for a planet that has seven billion people and moving toward nine. Using petroleum fuel to move products around and monocropping which is the agricultural practice of growing a single crop or plant species year after year in the same soil and adding , petrochemical pesticides, fungacides and fertalizers, are massive production methods that are not working.
DH: We’re depleting the soil, we’re polluting the waters, we’re doing all kinds of crazy things in order to follow that model, but it’s not a model that’s resilient. A community scale permaculture inspired system for food, fuel, and water is the only thing that really makes sense.
KM: Your website, dhlovelife.com, says that algae is also a great source for biodiesel fuel.
DH: There are a lot of great sources. There’s a ton of promise with algae fuels, there’s a ton of promise with sewage, there’s more than a promise with waste that can be made into energy. There are a lot of solutions available now to the crises we face. And there are a lot of solutions with existing infrastructure, so we don’t have to remake every car on the road or every gas station. Of course, all newly made vehicles should be made as clean and efficient as humanly possible but, every single vehicle that’s fuel-injected, which are the majority of cars on Earth right now, can be modified to run on 100% clean burning, non CO2 producing, alcohol with a tiny little box in minutes. That box can tell your car what percentage of petroleum or alcohol it’s running on, and it can run on alcohol fuel that can be made from any starchy or sugary substance. There are a lot of answers out there.
KM: A lot of people see things which move them or they feel impassioned by and they think –that’s for me to do — I want to change that — but then, there seems to be a disconnect between the talking about and the doing. Did you ever feel that call to action and then didn’t do it?
DH: Yes, of course, many, many times I’ve felt that call to action and I was too intimidated or too shy or uncomfortable or awkward or just not sure what would be effective, you know? I’ve definitely felt, at times, that I’ve supported something, either financially or with signatures or even showing up to a march but in sort of more general ways, but when I think I really, um, took it to the next level, it was, and I think this might be a key to what this missing step is, it was basically an act of passion. I had fallen in love with the creation of the South Central Farm and I’d fallen in love with the farmers who created it and I fell in love with the vision of the future of making these urban farms to make cities livable throughout the world.
She actually only went down to the South Central Farm in Los Angeles to film a video blog, when the owner of the land decided to eject the farmers in order to put up a warehouse in an extremely poor neighborhood dominated by them. She thought that was the most effective thing she could do; shoot a little piece on it to show people who were curious or interested. But, she immediately fell in love with the whole thing and quickly realized she couldn’t leave the farmers in that perilous position. Hannah decided she had to at least stand in solidarity with them and try to do everything she could think of to see if it could be saved. As a result, she spent three weeks living on the farm with farmers and other supporters raising money and awareness until she was eventually removed and arrested for the peaceful protest. The 14-acre urban farm with over 500 mature fruit trees, which fed thousands was razed and has sat vacant for the last 5-years.
DH: So, that’s really the first time I really got pushed beyond my comfort zone — my normal comfort zone. And I think in terms of what you’re asking about; the key. That seems to motivate people from not only being concerned about things but actually get them to take that next step is to really zero in on the thing that really hits home for them. Once you get in touch with that thing and you find something that is a solution, the crisis that really impacts you and affects you in a personal way, you will also be moved to action. I mean it always comes down to love – it sounds cheesy but it’s true.
KM: And do you ever feel overwhelmed or demoralized over just how much injustice there is or how much work there is to be done?
DH: Of course. I mean there’s a combination. I mean I’m relatively — the majority of the time — I’m optimistic. I think I get my optimism from the younger generations really getting it without having to be taught. They seem to get it. It makes sense to them. It’s common sense.
They understand many of these crisis issues from a place of common sense, not adversity, not judgment, not polarization and panic and profits, so that kind of thing always brings me back to hopefulness. People that I know who are bright and beautiful and shiny examples of human beings who are on the forefront of the solutions that are available to us — and there are so many — they’re exciting and inspiring. And then, of course, the natural world where I find so many beautiful surprises and wonderful miracles constantly — those are sort of my sources of positivity when I’m feeling down or overwhelmed.
KM: If there is one thing you’d like the readers of this article to “get,” what would it be?
DH: You know, while I think energy issues are obviously one of the great challenges we face right now, there are so many things that we are sort of blind to, to reference the name of the magazine. We don’t know what’s in our food; how precious our freshwater sources are, we don’t know how we’re getting our energy, for the most part. Our goods are filled with carcinogens. We’re acidifying the oceans and accelerating the 6th mass extinction. Not looking after our life support systems is a form of suicide. And you can’t trust the heavily sponsored mainstream media or those with vested interests to tell you the whole truth. So, we need to lift that veil off of our eyes, our minds, off our spirits so we can try to do things in a wiser way. We need to get informed about less destructive ways to co-habitate with each other and with the natural world. The good news is there’s lots of information out there, and there are solutions, it takes time to ferret through what’s true and what isn’t, but with the Internet, it makes the possibility of getting that information easier than it was 30 years ago.
KM: Any last words?
DH: You really just have to keep going. Fight the good fight. doing in life. Standing up for what you love; remembering to enjoy the process, because life is love — love is life, it’s one and the same. Find the things that interest you, that you’re passionate about and participate in making a better world for every living thing, you know? It’s all one song, so if you’re making something better for one living thing, you’re making it better for every living thing.
Styling by Vanessa Victoria
Beauty by Shellena Gonzalez
Make-up for M.A.C. cosmetics
Hair for Enjoy
Skincare – Dermalogica
Location Malibu, California