“We must face the fact that we cannot stop a CO2 rise, and if we keep doing business as usual and exacerbate the problem, then it’s complete system collapse. …We need to focus on sustainable energy sources … and ag[riculture] has the potential to be as big a part of the solution as energy does. …
“Sorry if I’m rambling on too fast,” Daryl Hannah says after firing this barrage of opinions about what she calls “the severe denial of the crisis we’re in.” As she calms down, she softly adds, “This gets me so excited.”
The 52-year-old actress is referring to our global environmental crisis, and her excitement is twofold: anger about the blatant disregard for harm that she contends we’re collectively causing the planet, and enthusiasm incited by the myriad solutions at our disposal.
On Oct. 4, she’ll bring her passion to the podium as the keynote speaker at the Southern California Energy Summit at Palm Springs Convention Center, where other speakers will include Congressman Raul Ruiz, and other public officials, environmentalists, and businessmen.
They will speak about the future of energy policy, advances in green building, innovative technologies, and the role of natural gas and biofuels. “Since I have no economic interest, it’ll be nice to stir things up,” Hannah quips. “It energizes me to work with people on the forefront of environmental change.”
Hannah has no set speech (“the issues are ever evolving”), but says she tends to focus much of her work now on energy issues. “Energy is something that touches everybody,” she explains, and points out how we’re poisoning our life-support systems — water, air, and soil — through our inefficient energy-sourcing methods.
Hannah, who made her movie debut in The Fury at age 17 before starring in blockbuster smashes like Splash, Blade Runner, and Kill Bill, has gained more attention in recent years for her leading role as environmental activist — and her five arrests. The most recent took place last February outside the White House, as she protested the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline with 48 other passionate environmentalists, including friend Bobby Kennedy Jr. While some of their constituents cuffed themselves to the Pennsylvania Avenue gate, Hannah says that she has avoided radical behavior. “I’ve simply stood in solidarity with people who are suffering the effects of bad policy,” she explains.
In fact, Hannah refutes many media reports stating that her activism costs her movie roles and has stunted her career. “I don’t believe my activism has impacted my career at all, not at all,” she says. “It’s not even something I’ve thought about. I don’t know where they come up with these silly things.” (Earlier this year, Hannah co-starred with Brooke Shields and Wanda Sykes in The Hot Flashes, in which she played a middle-aged former high school basketball champion who returns to the court to raise money for breast cancer awareness).
Back to activism: “I don’t even consider myself an activist; I just live by my beliefs. And as I’ve realized that we have the ability to transform our practices if we choose to, I’ve started to speak out more.”
Hannah’s awareness of these choices fuels her push for change. “It excites me to know we have all of these alternative resources available, and [can] put them into practice,” she says. “It’s not worth putting life on this planet in jeopardy when we have less destructive ways of doing things.”
Hannah learned she could use recycled restaurant grease instead of petroleum to fuel her car. Her second car and a tractor run on biodiesel. She learned she could source energy from solar panels, and water from a catchment system, two outfits at her modestly sized, “human-scale” country home. She also grows her own vegetable garden, and raises animals she rescued from factory farms, including chickens, alpacas, horses, and a pig named Molly. “I’ve never bought a pet,” Hannah says.
Daryl Hannah raises animals she rescued from factory farms, including chickens, alpacas, horses, and a pig named Molly.
A Vegan since age 11, she shares the impressionable, life-changing moment that compelled her to give up meat: “I grew up in Chicago, and my parents used to take us to visit my grandparents in Wisconsin. I hated the restaurants we’d go to there — those places that serve cream on crud, you know — so I’d beg to stay in the car while they ate. This one time I was walking around the lot of the restaurant and saw a truck with a bunch of baby calves. One of them was kissing me, and I just fell in love with him. I asked the truck driver [the calf’s] name, and he said ‘Veal, tomorrow morning at 7.’ From then on, I couldn’t look at the food on my plate without thinking of the animal it had once been. I wasn’t able to eat another creature.”
Beyond diet, veganism means giving up animal products in general, and avoiding practices that harm them — a confusing concept for many eco-conscious consumers. To provide clarity about this and other environmental challenges, in 2005 Hannah created and designed dhlovelife.com, a website that shares solutions on how to interact more harmoniously with the planet and its inhabitants, and ultimately improve our own health and quality of life. Viewers can watch video blogs, follow daily news updates, and gain access to sustainable services and goods. “When people are informed, they make wiser decisions,” Hannah says. “Most people don’t want to poison themselves.”
The founder of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, Hannah also sits on the boards of Mission Blue, Environmental Media Association, Action Sports Environmental Coalition, and others.
Her devotion to the cause radiates through that same idiosyncratic, high-pitched voice of Annelle Dupuy Desoto in Steel Magnolias, after she’s found Jesus and wants the rest of the world to find him too. “We need to take steps forward instead of always moving sideways, and move into using clean, renewable energy.”
California is already setting an example, she says, and has the potential to be a model for the rest of the nation.
“I’m trying to make these changes so that all of the life forms I adore, and people, and my relatives, and their children, will be able to enjoy this planet for a little bit longer,” Hannah says. “We’re facing crisis on every level, and its incumbent upon all of us to speak out, get engaged, and take action. That’s the only way we can hope for change.”
For this shoot, makeup artist Elizabeth Ulloa used eco-friendly, chemical-free products on Daryl Hannah. “I have friends in my industry who have died from cancer caused by the chemicals found in our beauty products,” the actress says. “My crew knows I come with an awareness, and so they know to use only nontoxic products on me.” Hannah’s beauty secret is coconut oil.
“I use it for cooking, and as moisturizer!”
IF YOU GO
Southern California Energy Summit
Oct. 3 — Bus tour, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Welcome reception, 5:30-7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — Southern California Energy Summit featuring Daryl Hannah, expert speakers
program, and a vendor exhibition at Palm Springs Convention Center