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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.

The following is from Sabrina Artel's Trailer Talk: The Frack Talk Marcellus Shale Water Project. Listen to the complete program  here.

I've traveled the country with the Trailer Talk BeeLine camper talking to people about fracking. I stopped in Yellow Springs, Ohio over Labor Day to share Trailer Talk's Shale Project and create a Bill of Rights for Water with community members fighting back against the industry landmen knocking on doors throughout the area. I was reminded of the threat to our farms as I drove past acres of farmland with sunflower fields and beehives with No Fracking signs standing fiercely on the road. Heading west I traveled through tornado-flattened Joplin, drought-desperate Oklahoma and Texas, and a dismantled Route 66, recognizing the desperate economic situation this country is in and how enticing drilling can seem to those barely scraping by.  

I've driven to Buffalo through New York's Finger Lakes, which are slated for fracking. I passed thousands of acres of farmland with pro and con drilling signs in their fields. I've tossed and turned at night, marched, spoken about and researched the situation, as I try to grasp this infiltration taking place on my hometown soil. As the anti-fracking community in the Sullivan County Catskills battles fiercely and volunteer groups have formed and evolved over the last three and a half years, the culmination of this pushback is resting on the just-released final draft of the SGEIS environmental review from the Department of Environmental Decision (DEC). The DEC has plans to hold public hearings sometime in November and the contested public comment period is open through December 12. Scientists are signing petitions to New York governor Cuomo demanding further studies and scientific data to prove the safety of fracking before another state is victimized.

Farming is central to this battle.  Farmhearts, a new non-profit organization formed in the Catskills, recognizes that in the face of drilling, farmland will change its land use from agricultural to industrial, destroying not only a vital American tradition but something we rely on to live sustainable lives in our towns. Actor Mark Ruffalo, a resident of Sullivan County, New York and the founder of Farmhearts, joined me for a conversation about the organization’s mission, farming, water and fracking.

Sabrina Artel: I'm in Callicoon, New York, at the Callicoon Youth Center. This is "Haystock," a benefit for Farmhearts. Mark Ruffalo, actor, director, environmental advocate, and Catskill, New York, resident, joins me at the kitchen table of "Trailer Talk" to talk about Farmhearts, a nonprofit farm advocacy organization he helped found whose mission is to help local family farms by lending assistance in grants, helping to bring added value to a farm's existing products, offering grassroots and Internet support, and opening the door to the next generation of young farmers. They are committed to lending a hand to the hands that feed us, and their mission is to help local family farms survive and thrive.

We talk about home, farming, and what New York is facing with fracking for natural gas. The Department of Environmental Conservation, the DEC, has just released its SGEIS regulations, and environmental groups are pushing for an extended public comment period as the state faces fracking as early as the beginning of 2012. What happens if a community loses its farms and agricultural land?

Mark Ruffalo: My teacher believed in this great George Bernard Shaw quote that she would say repeatedly,"You should have to pay to go to church, and the theater should be free." She really did see the platform as a place where people learned an enormous amount about themselves, about humanity, about a place in the world.

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