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Actor Mark Ruffalo — part of a new group of entertainment leaders called Hollywood United for a Healthy California that is pushing Governor Jerry Brown to move the state away from fossil fuels — is now setting his sights on President Obama.
The Spotlight star, in the midst of kicking off an awards campaign, has signed on to narrate and executive produce the documentary Dear President Obama, a film about the administration’s energy and climate change policies due out next year. The movie’s director is Jon Bowermaster, who’s helmed films documenting his own eco-adventures for National Geographic and whose most recent project, After the Spill, focuses on post-Katrina Louisiana.
Ruffalo — a longtime environmental activist opposing the process of hydrofracking to extract natural gas — signed on to Dear President Obama because he finds Obama’s approach to climate change “insane.”
“When you have the president saying that climate change is absolutely for real and we must do something about it, and then in the next breath he says we must start drilling in the Arctic circle even, there’s a huge disconnect, a cognitive dissonance. His own scientists are telling him we have to keep that carbon in the ground otherwise we are doomed,” says Ruffalo.
The film, says the actor, will “implore President Obama to stop this drill, baby, drill, all of the above energy policy that he has taken our country on. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t keep pushing to take all the carbon out of the earth, which will be burned, while at the same time saying you believe in climate science.”
The documentary will look at the health impacts of hydrofracking, scientific research on global warming and what can be done to move the U.S. to renewable sources of energy. “Jon has been shooting all over the United States talking with scientists, talking with technologists, talking with folks who are living in the shadow of these extreme energy lands where hydrofracking, cyclic steam, deep-sea drilling and all of these things are going on.”
Ruffalo and Bowermaster, who both have homes in upstate New York, met a few years back when they were both engaged in a fight to ban hydrofracking in the state and while the director was putting together Dear Governor Cuomo, a short documentary plea to New York State’s Andrew Cuomo to ban fracking there. Cuomo did so in late 2014 over health concerns. People affected in New York, says Ruffalo, “didn’t have any water to drink from their taps because it was polluted. The air in their houses was polluted.”
Ruffalo isn’t just fighting the problems. In 2011, he formed a group called The Solutions Project with Gasland director Josh Fox, banker Marco Krapels (now a solar power executive) and Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, the head of the university’s Atmosphere/Energy Program. The organization has put forth a plan for all 50 states showing how each can move toward 100 percent renewable energy sources with a mix of solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, wind, wave and tidal power.
“The oil and gas corporations have poured a lot of money into misinformation on renewable energy,” says Ruffalo. “They tell us that it’s impossible. But the fact is that possibilities for moving beyond the oil and gas corporate energy structure are completely available. They are economic. They are clean. They are sustainable. We don’t have to burn anything anymore. There’s an endless supply of energy if we are just willing to harvest it. It’s an elegant, graceful plan which fits very well with people’s modern ideas of how they should be living their lives. The only thing standing in the way is political will.”
Ruffalo places Obama and Brown among the ranks of political forces obstructing progress on climate change. The two politicians, he says, “are almost worse than climate change deniers. They are not honest in another way that’s much more harmful to us. They are taking the political will that we need to make these changes and they are dulling the knife edge of it. They are making people go to sleep. They are making people think that dealing with climate change is being taken care of. In fact, renewable energy is going to be useless if we pull all of this carbon out of the ground and burn it.”
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