The Academy Award-nominated actor took a moment to talk about the issues that matter to him most.
As much as president-elect Trump seems to spout on Twitter, environmentalism is no conspiracy. From the countless tsunamis to the devastating earthquakes, climate change has made its mark on the planet, decimating some of the most populated parts of the world. It is an issue that is becoming the increasingly new global fear for millennials. Gone are the Reagan-era emergency procedures for inevitable nuclear holocaust. Instead, public policy will surely soon begin to shift its concerns to addressing the very palpable, grave and alarming situation that is climate change. After all, it is our generation that will have to answer for the decades upon decades of environmental neglect.
Of all the actors, celebrities and cultural presences that occupy the effervescent and fleeting world that is Hollywood, few dedicate as much time to debating and advocating for a realistic answer to climate change than Mark Ruffalo. The seasoned actor has made it his personal goal to combat the archaic fossil fuel industry that many seem to surmise is the only way to resurrect American working-class jobs. From fracking to LGBTQ+ rights, Ruffalo has become one of the most vocal activists in celebrity culture, going so far as to start an anti-fracking non-profit called Water Defense. New York Magazine calls Ruffalo “anti-fracking’s first famous face.” The Knockturnal caught up with the revered actor/activist to discuss the aftermath of the Standing Rock Verdict, American populism and internet accessibility at the New York premiere of A24’s 20th Century Women presented by Project Cobalt.
Honoring the Long-Forgotten Native Americans
Native Americans have routinely been neglected, abused and mistreated by the US government since the days of Andrew Jackson. Truth be told, it was prevalent even before the populist president took office. And yet, the Native Americans of North Dakota won a powerful battle a few days ago when the federal government decided that it would not continue its plan to build the Dakota Access Pipeline. The ruling was a monumental victory not only for the racially discriminated Native Americans, but also for environmentalism.
“The big win was to have the federal government make a move to honor the native people after decade upon decade of stealing from them, murdering them, stealing their culture and going back and forth against their treaties,” explained the staunch activist. The actor went on to say that “yesterday was the beginning of a shift for America. It was significant for the native people.” As significant as it was for the native people, it seems as though it was just as significant for environmentalists like Ruffalo.
The Depreciating Value of Fossil Fuels
The fossil fuel boom of the 20th century was one that was unprecedented in economic growth. All of a sudden, exponential growth became a tangible part of the US economy’s progress. But given oils fluctuation in demand, supply and pricing, it has more often than not brought nations to its knees, particularly autarky-like nations such as Venezuela.
Beyond that, we have understood the impact that fossil fuel consumption has had on our environment since the 1970s. It has ravaged our lands, contaminated our water, and fueled the gross corporate incompetence that comes to fruition when chasing after the Almighty Dollar. In reflecting his thoughts about America’s newfound love for fossil fuels, Ruffalo surmised that, “Oil is depressed. That pipeline is going to be losing money from day one. It’s already started to lose money.”
The veteran actor went on to explain that, “the world is moving away from fossil fuels. In a year, there will be more people working in renewable energy than there will be in fossil fuels. That’s where all the high-paying jobs are, that’s where all the upwardly mobile people are. And the rest of the world is moving forward.”
America’s Environmentalist Will
America’s dependency on fossil fuels has long kept it out of the fight for renewable energy consumption. Simply put, there seems to be too much money to be made in the volatile market space that fossil fuels. And yet recently, populism has spoken: they don’t want the pipeline or any of its purported economic revitalization.
“They did the right thing!” exclaimed the jubilant Ruffalo when discussing the federal government’s plan to abandon building the pipeline over the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. “All they’re asking is to have their concerns considered which is what they were asking from the very beginning. What this is ultimately about is the will of the people over corporate greed and wealth. They don’t want it!”
The Third Industrial Revolution
The upward mobility of citizens more often than not hinges on the pace of industrialization of a nation. For the last half-a-century, continuous economic growth has translated to better living standards, wages, and to a larger extent, life expectancy. Yet we find ourselves in an epoch in which investment in fossil fuels is archaic and not nearly as profitable as it once proved to be.
“We have to help the working class by transitioning to 100% renewable energy which will create more than 3.5 million more jobs than we lose by making that transition into the fossil fuel industry,” stated Ruffalo. The esteemed actor went on to mandate that “we have to build up our efficiency by retrofitting buildings with renewable energy sources. That’s huge jobs! That’s how we move forward.”
The Internet as a Tool for the People
With tech companies like Google and others investing in making the internet as accessible as drinking water, shelter and other basic necessities, it seems ironic that so many inland American states have such abysmal access to stable, high-speed internet connections.
The need for consistent access of information has led Ruffalo to the idea that “we need an internet that works for everybody—not just the people on the coasts.” Ruffalo went on to explain that it’s not only ethically important to establish a high quality of internet access in the rest of the nation—it also creates a slew of economic opportunities. “We have internet that doesn’t go into the rest of the nation—those are opportunities for the rest of the country that are being missed. There’s a lot of work to do,” posited the activist.
The Brutality of Corporate America
The last few years has been some of the most socially, culturally and politically turbulent that the United States has lived through. From police brutality and mass incarceration to the failure of the education system and the standardized racist treatment of African Americans and other ethnic groups, America has had a lot to deal with as a nation. And the situation at Standing Rock is no different.
Speaking of the ruthless and oppressive methods used at Standing Rock, Ruffalo explained that corporate America “has been funding militarization, brutalization of our people with rubber bullets, concussion grenades, water canon in sub-freezing weather.” Ruffalo added that “they’re using our corporate state to beat up on American people and we have to stop that,” a point that many of the activists at Standing Rock and other environmentally-vulnerable locales ardently agree with.
Coming Together for a Greater Good
One of the most salient parts of the Standing Rock protests was that it brought together people from all over the country. “The vets came, the priests came, the reverends came, the sisters came, the brothers came, the natives came, the environmentalists came, the social justice people came, the children came, the grandmothers came, the grandfathers came. It was the best of our nation coming together,” reflected the grinning Ruffalo.
Speaking briefly about president-elect Donald Trump’s controversial rhetoric, Ruffalo optimistically and proudly countered that “we have not lost our ways as Americans. We are still America. We are still people who believe that Jewish people are equal, that Muslim people belong here, that we have a multiethnic, diverse nation.”
With the American people living in such a divisive time, it seems that all social order is lost. And yet the enthusiastic but staunchly skeptical Ruffalo posits that “We just have to resist. What better way to resist than what we learned from the Standing Rock Pipeline? It was beautiful what happened there. We’re living in a sacred time man.” If the protests in North Dakota prove anything, it is that perhaps Mr. Ruffalo is indeed correct. Perhaps we truly are living in a postmodern world that is reflective, self-aware and active. I just hope that the rest of the world agrees that it is too.
Check out The Knockturnal’s full interview with Mark Ruffalo below: