Daryl Hannah: The actress & the activist


Daryl Hannah

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Perhaps most famously in Hannah’s eco reportoire is her June 2006 arrest in which she chained herself to a walnut tree for three weeks. She was joining 350 farmers and supporters, including activist Julia ‘Butterfly’ Hill to save LA’s urban community farm, the nation’s largest, from being bulldozed to build a warehouse. She was arrested upon their eviction from the farm along with more than 40 others. Hannah was also arrested a second time in June 2009 in a protest against mountaintop removal in West Virginia.

“Julia Butterfly’’ Hill, one of my all-time heroes, alerted me to the South Central farmer’s dire situation. Fourteen acres of fallow land were given to one of the poorest communities in LA, by the city as a peace offering after the ‘92 LA riots. Smack in the centre of one of the most notoriously dangerous parts of southern California, the community turned the dump into an oasis of organic cornfields, mango, papaya, bananas, medicinal plants and more, feeding 350 farmers and their families who formerly had to rely on the food bank. They also provided fresh, local, organic food to the rest of the neighbourhood.

The farm, situated in an extremely industrial, polluted area was a living, breathing, green space, which acted as the lungs of South Central, reducing global warming emissions by sucking up masses of nasty carbon dioxide from the Alameda corridor. And to top it all off, it was also a habitat for birds, butterflies, lizards, honeybees and a safe haven for children living in a virtual warzone. 

This farm was a stellar, perfect example of how what’s good for one is good for all – a perfect solution to so many issues we currently face, and all at no cost to the city or financial aid programs. After farming the land for 14 years, the farmers received a notice of eviction on their doorstep.

Image on right: Hannah on the Barron River. Credit: Dulcie Ford

When I went down to the farm, I originally intended to shoot an episode of dhlovelife.com to help spread the word. I had no idea that I was going to be staying there for nearly a month, and I had no plan to get arrested.

It was incredibly inspiring and seriously hard work. I was scared at first about getting arrested, though once the time came, I was very calm about it and confident it was the morally right thing to do, to stand in solidarity with the farmers and lend them my voice. I can honestly say the experience has made me a more confident person and more driven in my mission.

The second time I was arrested was when I went to Coal River to help bring much needed attention to mountaintop removal, a devastatingly destructive form of mining that has already destroyed two million acres in the Appalachian Mountains.

Coal companies have literally blown up over 500 mountain tops in the region to access the coal seams and then dumped the refuse into the valleys below, killing over 3000 miles (4828 km) of headwater streams. It leaves behind a virtual hideous moonscape of devastated earth, billions of gallons of poisonous toxic sludge, and boards up towns with dramatically high rates of cancer.”

Speaking on Australia’s economical dependence on the coal mining industry, Hannah is a believer in renewable energies being the way forward.

“When more energy hits the earth every hour from the sun than all other forms of energy that man uses combined in an entire year – why aren’t we using it?

There are solar thermal, concentrated solar, passive and active systems. There have also been increasingly dramatic advances in wind turbine design and technology. There’s a whole host of solutions available to satisfy our energy needs.

We need to get away from outdated centralized models of infrastructure, to speed up innovation and implementation of clean regenerative energy and increase their affordability and availability.”

Image on right: Hannah at home on her ranch with her horse. Credit: Pake Salmon

Hannah finds motivation in her ability to spread the word, as recognised voice, and helping to educate in environmental awareness.

“Everyone gets overwhelmed at times. I try to stay focused on the things I love – thus the name [for my website], ‘lovelife’. This gives me hope and inspires me to action. And information is key! Once people understand that their commercial body care products or household cleaners are carcinogenic, non-biodegradable and potentially dangerous to themselves and their loved ones – you start to see changes.

I still work as an actress but as I get older I find myself focusing more on educating myself and spreading information because I see environmental concerns, humanitarian issues and animal welfare as one and the same and we are at a critical crossroads.

To check out some of Hannah's great video blogs, visit www.dhlovelife.com. For more information on the permaculture course that Hannah did, visit www.freerangepermaculture.com.au.

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