More than a pretty face

Daryl Hannah is a longtime crusader for environmental causes

Daryl Hannah may be best known for her work in the film industry, but the Hollywood star is a knowledgeable, longtime environmental advocate.

Daryl Hannah may be best known for her work in the film industry, but the Hollywood star is a knowledgeable, longtime environmental advocate.

Sharing solutions:
Daryl Hannah will speak at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 6) at Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium. Her appearance is part of the On the Creek Lecture Series, sponsored by Chico Performances and Klean Kanteen. For ticket info, visit or call 898-6333.

Most people probably think of Daryl Hannah as the blonde movie actress who played a beautiful mermaid alongside Tom Hanks in Ron Howard’s 1984 box-office smash Splash. For the more off-beat viewer, Hannah’s attention-commanding role as Pris, the punkish replicant in the 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner, likely comes to mind.

She has made her mark in many successful films, including Vols. 1 and 2 of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and a number of lesser-known movies. Hannah was also folk singer Jackson Browne’s girlfriend for 10 years and, even more famously, she dated the late John F. Kennedy Jr.

Hannah, however—who will appear in Chico State’s Laxson Auditorium on Friday (Nov. 6)—is not coming to town to talk about her film career or her high-profile ex-boyfriends.

She is a vocal, longtime activist for a large number of environmental causes (her work with marine-wildlife protection group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is widely known, for one, and she maintains an informative eco-focused blog, She will be speaking on the issue of sustainability in a talk titled “The Solution Revolution” as part of the university’s On the Creek Lecture Series.

The CN&R caught up with Hannah—a vegan who lives in a small, solar-powered house in the Rocky Mountains that is entirely off the grid and drives a car that runs on biodiesel—by phone recently and had an hour-long conversation about Sea Shepherd, biodiversity, overpopulation, her heroes and what she considers the three most important issues in sustainability today.

Hannah spent two weeks aboard Sea Shepherd’s boat, the MV Steve Irwin, in December 2008 during the ship’s annual campaign tracking down and confronting Japanese boats that are illegally whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary off the coast of Antarctica. She used the words “amazing,” “dedicated” and “inspiring” in talking about Capt. Paul Watson and his crew, and the 18-hour days she spent working alongside them “cooking, chopping, painting—a little bit of everything, including a midnight to 4 a.m. shift on the bridge doing navigation.

“You know, less than 1 percent of the oceans are protected as established sanctuaries,” offered Hannah, “and even that is not enforced. But this one little boat [the Steve Irwin] is trying to enforce, protect and bring sanity to this issue.

“Ninety percent of the big fish are gone,” she continued, “and we may not be able to bring [this situation] back from the brink.”

Daryl Hannah walks the talk. She lives off the grid and drives a biodiesel car.

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Hannah mentioned overfishing, illegal fishing and the dumping of pesticides and other toxins into the oceans as some of the actions contributing to the endangerment of the oceans, marine life and other species (including humans) and land-based ecosystems that depend on one another for long-term survival.

“If you’re just a tiny bit offshore, you’re allowed to just dump, or if you flush the toilet, it ‘just goes away,’ ” she continued, “but there is no ‘away.’ We need to figure out a different system. All life on this planet is interdependent. … [For instance,] salmon come back to spawn in rivers—if we don’t overfish. Bears eat them, and the leftovers [the bears’ waste material] feed the forest floor. It’s all one big, beautifully working machine.”

Hannah first learned to deep-sea dive as a 3-year-old, and her diving partner, widely known 74-year-old oceanographer and marine conservationist Sylvia Earle, received high praise as one of her all-time heroes, as did Watson.

“It takes a lot of courage and balls to say to everybody, ‘I don’t care what you think—I’m doing this for the whales. I’m doing this for my clients in the ocean,’ ” Hannah said of Watson.

Japanese-Canadian scientist and environmental activist Dr. David Suzuki and Colorado biodiesel activist Charris Ford (“He can spot a ‘greenwash’ at a hundred paces,” she said) also made Hannah’s hero list, as did famous environmentalist Julia “Butterfly” Hill, with whom Hannah “tree-sat” in 2006 in an attempt to save Los Angeles’ South Central Farm from being sacrificed to development.

Her top three sustainability issues?

“Obviously—energy, water and food,” Hannah answered, without missing a beat. “These are the main things we need to live, and where we are causing the most damage.”

She called the reliance upon fossil fuels “a bad idea,” predicted that soon “we’ll start seeing water wars, like those we have for oil,” and advocated “grow[ing] as much of your own food as you can.”

Like Watson, Hannah is deeply concerned about overpopulation.

“We need to get the population under control,” she said. “It’s the ‘elephant in the room’ that nobody wants to address. We need to stop breeding. … If you want more [than one or two] kids, adopt them. There are plenty of kids … who need warm, loving homes.

“We all need to step up and take action,” said Hannah of addressing the many pressing issues regarding the sustainability of the planet. “It’s not necessary to protest and get arrested. There are other ways—art, music, write a book. There are all kinds of ways to be creative about taking action. It is no longer acceptable to just sit back and think someone else is going to take care of it.”