Climate-change organization Global Green will give Mark Ruffalo its Entertainment Industry Environmental Leadership Award on Saturday at its 15th annual Millennium Awards, to be held at Santa Monica's Fairmont Miramar Hotel. The ceremony will also recognize actor and well-known environmental activist Ed Begley Jr. and Wendy Schmidt, president of the Schmidt Family Foundation and the wife of Google’s Eric Schmidt, for their eco advocacy. Schmidt recently launched the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Prize Challenge to discover innovative ways to clean up oil spills.
The award to Ruffalo is in recognition of his campaign to ban hydrofracking, a controversial method of extracting natural gas from underground shale beds. "Right now, the big fight is stopping doing gas drilling in the Delaware River basin, which is where 15 million people get their drinking water," Ruffalo -- who lives not far from the river in the Catskills area of upstate New York -- tells The Hollywood Reporter. As seen in the Oscar-nominated 2010 movie Gasland, fracking is believed to be a threat to clean water, in some cases sullying groundwater enough to make tap water flammable. The natural-gas industry disputes that.
"The root of this is our addiction to carbon-based fuels. Everywhere we turn, they are touching our lives in a negative way, and our extraction methods are getting more and more desperate because there’s no more easy fuel. As we get more desperate, more of our natural processes will get destroyed in the process," says Ruffalo, who has started his own foundation, Water Defense, to bring together advocates on the issue nationwide and raise awareness of the dangers of fracking.
"Natural gas is seen as a clean energy source and yet fracking is really destroying a lot of communities and their water tables,” says Global Green executive director Matt Petersen. “Until Mark really shined his spotlight on gas fracking, it hadn’t gotten the attention it needed to in this country.” Among the actors who have signed letters of support of Water Defense are Ethan Hawke, Susan Sarandon, Zoe Saldana and Naomi Watts.
Adds Ruffalo, who is currently filming The Avengers in New York: "I think what’s going to motivate people is the issue of water. Climate change is in many ways still an abstraction to a lot of people, but when you can’t turn on your water faucet and drink the water that comes out of your tap … that’s something we’ve taken for granted." Previous recipients of the award are Leonardo DiCaprio and Pierce Brosnan.