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Mark Ruffalo: We Can Go Gracefully Into a Green Future, Or We Can Go Kicking and Screaming, But There Is No Choice

Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo discusses his new organization Farmhearts, fracking, protecting our water and the future of our country.

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SA: And this platform is the stage ... something that's elevated.

MR: It's elevated. And she believed that the moment you walked on a platform, you carried an enormous responsibility, that you were elevated, and that you were instantly made better than yourself. You're assuming a sort of mantel, and it's a 5,000-year-old tradition. It predates many of the religions, and it's been used as a connection to our humanity from the very beginning. And so, that's very heady stuff in a world that makes acting very cheap and entertainers very inconsequential.

But for me, I never really forgot that I am part of a 5,000-year-old tradition, and that I do have a responsibility. And so, a lot of my work comes out of that.

SA: So, here we are. It's a benefit for Farmhearts. So, how is that connected, then, to these beliefs?

MR: The mission statement is to give a hand to the hand that feeds ... a helping had to the hand that feeds. As I've been in Sullivan County almost 15 years now, I've become very aware of my relationship to my food, where it comes from, the people who grow it -- and I'm really proud of that and I really love that. It's something I brag about as I travel to other places where they don't get to enjoy that. I've become increasingly aware that our farmers are in great need. We've heard about it with Farm Aid and all these things over the years. I've gotten to witness it firsthand, and they're very desperate right now, and they do need a hand, and they're very proud people, and they don't like to say they need a hand.

They're dying out. Our family farms, or these kind of small operations, are slowly dying out. That's a real shame and it would be a travesty if we allow it just to happen.

Through hydrofracking and that fight, we've developed this kind of real grassroots movement and a grassroots kind of understanding of our legislature how to affect change through grassroots movement. So, we're sort of applying what we've learned in saying no to something like hydrofracking, gas drilling, in New York State, and applying it to a more positive thing like, how do we help these people who are so desperately in need who look to the gas industry as a helping hand -- as their only alternative at this point?

SA: Right. And to realize how interconnected they are. What the oil and gas companies are attempting to do throughout the state is so connected to the resources we have with our farmers and farmland, and that could be lost.

MR: Yes. If there's a mass industrialization of New York State, which we're looking at right now, a good portion of our viable farmland will be consumed by it. As I talk to these people and I hear their concerns, a lot of them are ready to sell out. A lot of them are tired; a lot of them are ready to move on; a lot of them are facing mortgages that are crushing them, and the only income that they see that could possibly pull them out of the situation they're in is these leases in the hopes that one of these wells actually hits.

And so, it's endemic -- it's everywhere.

SA: It is everywhere, and who can blame someone? And that's where I just feel like, you know, it can't be the burden of an individual being faced by a very compelling landman who can make almost anyone feel that they're part of something great and important and wonderful -- part of a community -- as part of their salesmanship. And also, people for so long have been profiting in that way, and so it's not right that an individual would be faced with something like that. I mean, who wouldn't? It's not fair at all.

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