Talking with Daryl Hannah
As an actress, Daryl Hannah has played the violent replicant Pris in the sci-fi classic Blade Runner, charmed Tom Hanks as a mermaid in Splash, and channeled an assasin's wrath in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series.
As an advocate, Hannah is dedicated to the natural environment and human rights. Through a new online show, DH Love Life, Hannah is searching for vegan junkfood, investigating the violence in Rwanda, and exploring the benefits of biking, among other things. GOOD recently spoke with Hannah about biofuels, overcoming shyness, and her run-ins with the law.
GOOD: Your Web show, DH Love Life, covers a wide range of topics. How do you decide what to feature?
DARYL HANNAH: I usually start with the “what factor." If I learn something that makes me ask "What?" then I focus on those inspiring people and pieces of information. They all relate to the interdependent issues of human rights, environmental preservation, and the welfare and protection of other species. Dhlovelife.com has no sponsors, ads, or full-time staff, so the website is really just a personal project. There are thousands of stories and subjects I’d love to cover, but I do it on on my days off, which limits me to filming whatever I’m near.
G: You've been a vocal advocate for biodiesel in some big venues—including Bill O’Reilly's show. What is the biggest misconception people have about biodiesel?
DH: The biggest misconception about all biofuels is that they aren't a realistic solution. Energy is obviously one of the main causes of war, environmental degradation, and human rights abuses, so true sustainable energy independence is hugely important. This is what makes me a big supporter of most biofuels—both biodiesel and alcohol fuel—which have the potential to [help] avert our lethal dependence on fossil fuels. Biofuels can decrease our dependence on foreign oil, support family farmers, make use of waste on its way to the landfill, cut carbon dioxide; they can be grown locally, harvested, and produced in a sustainable manner. [However], we don't want slash-and-burn rainforest operations or fuel made from animals, which is why I helped found the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, a tool to help producers and consumers discern what is sustainably produced, harvested, and distributed biodiesel.
G: I've read about your shyness as a child and even young adult, but you’re a high-profile actress and you’ve been arrested twice for environmental protests. How were you able to overcome your timidity to stand up for environmental and human rights issues so assertively?
DH: Standing in solidarity with those suffering an injustice, whether it's a people, an endangered species, or a natural system, is not really a choice for me. I’m simply compelled, so my fears don't stand a chance. Sometimes my ability to communicate as effectively as I'd like to is inhibited, but we all do what we can.
G: TIME and a few other publications covered the several weeks that you lived in a tree to protest construction of an incinerator on farmland in downtown Los Angeles. Can you tell us the story?
DH: Fourteen acres of fallow land were presented to one of the poorest communities in Los Angeles by the city as a peace offering after the 1992 riots. Smack in the center of one of the most notoriously dangerous parts of southern California, the community turned the dump into an oasis. Families, who formerly had to rely on a food bank, were now growing over 500 fruit trees, organic cornfields, mango, papaya, bananas, medicinal plants, and more.
Situated in an extremely industrial and polluted area, the farm became a living, breathing, green space, acting as the lungs of South Central by reducing global warming emissions, and sucking up tons of nasty carbon dioxide from the Alameda corridor. And to top it all off, the land became a habitat for birds, butterflies, lizards, honeybees, and a safe haven for children living in a virtual warzone.
This farm was a perfect example of how what’s good for one is good for all. Fourteen years after conception, the farmers unceremoniously received a notice of eviction on their doorstep. Despite other empty lots, developers planned to replace the farm with a warehouse.
We used the tree as a lookout perch. Two of the greatest tree sitters, Julia Butterfly Hill, who spent over two years living in a redwood to bring attention to and stop their destruction, and John Quigley, known for saving the ancient oak "Old Glory,” lived in the tree. The combination of a narrow platform and my vertigo were really the biggest challenges for me.
G: Last summer you were arrested with NASA scientist James Hansen while protesting mountaintop removal mining. How did you get involved?
DH: Once again it was the what factor that moved me. I was shocked to learn about the over 500 mountaintops that have been unceremoniously blown off. This is a hidden, somewhat secret crime. You can see the devastation in pictures from outer space but we rarely hear about it.
It's crucial that Americans let their voices be heard and let the powers that be know that MTR is not acceptable. When I heard there was going to be a protest, I simply went down to add my voice and presence to the many people fighting for some sanity.
G: According to an interview in The Washington Post, you’ve recently been going undercover in brothels to document human trafficking. How did you get involved with that and what has been the most difficult part of trying to stop such a violent, exploitative ring?
DH: Same what factor. I was totally shocked and appalled to learn that there are more slaves now than any other time in human history. In my naïveté, I thought it had been abolished. Isn’t that what we were taught in school? Slavery is a global issue, and the fastest growing criminal industry on the planet. Most of the victims are women under the age of 18, forced into prostitution. I just couldn't sleep at night thinking about the millions of little girls suffering. While I advocate ending all forms of slavery, I met someone who worked with sex trafficking victims and decided to follow, learn, and document.
G: How do your public relations people feel about your run-ins with the law?
DH: I don’t have public relations people.