Unusually Clever People

Mark Ruffalo – Gardener and Activist for Clean Water

Mark-ruffalo-as-paul-5
 
Somewhere in Upstate New York (Sullivan County in the Catskill Mountains), an impossibly cute, Oscar-nominated actor gardens with his family.  In a recent story he said, “I know all my neighbors. It’s beautiful and healthy, and in the winter there are blankets of snow covering the rolling hills.  But I’m raising three kids up there, primarily because it’s supposed to be so clean, and all of a sudden I’m in the middle of a public health fight.”

The public fight he’s in the middle of is against fracking, the “controversial and potentially polluting natural gas extraction process by which tons of water are infused with chemicals.”  Ruffalo says, “They blast the mixture underground at such high levels that it fractures the bedrock, which allows the natural gas to escape.” 

He first learned about the fracking debate at his local farmers market, where he goes to buy the things that he and his wife, Sunrise Coigney, don’t grow in their own garden. (But they grow almost everything. They are those people. Asked to identify anything in his salad he could have harvested himself, he lists everything but the cheese.)

In Men’s Health we learn that the Ruffalos live in a 150-year-old post-and-beam barn on their 50 acres of secluded farmland. They spend a couple of months in that “healing place” every summer, and the Men’s Health reporter found him there “playing with the kids, Dad-erranding to town for supplies, and moving some rock and grading the entrances to the barn.”

So, it turns out the character Ruffalo played in “The Kids are All Right” – the laid-back grower of organic foods – was no stretch. 

And now that we know that he’s a gardener/farmer in Update New York, where there just happens to be a GardenRanter nearby, a site visit and gardener interview are definitely in order.  Michele, you have your assignment and this quote by Ruffalo offers a clue to approaching him: “You know, the people around here just work too damn hard to go to movies, which means that the guys at the local Agway are just as insulting to me now as they always have been. And I like that.”  So just insult him like the local farmers do and you’re in!  We want photos, too.

But back to fracking, it’s just one of many water issues he hopes to see people coalesce around. “Our idea is to go from city to city [and unite] whatever water groups are fighting mountaintop removal, or water scarcity, or gas drilling – anywhere that water is under attack, we host a concert there.”  And here he is on “Need to Know” making his case.

Watch the full episode. See more Need To Know.

To learn more about fracking, I’m putting the anti-fracking documentary Gasland in my Netflix queue.  It’s also Oscar-nominated.

Posted by on February 21, 2011 at 4:50 am, in the category Unusually Clever People.
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20 Responses to “Mark Ruffalo – Gardener and Activist for Clean Water”

  1. Sally says:

    I will think about his stand against fracking the next time I pay over $3.00 for a gallon of gas. I do not like to pay Middle East countries for that petroleum product when we have more than enough here but can’t produce it because of people like this man who doesn’t look into the whole picture.

  2. tibs says:

    Big issue in my neck of the woods. Not only is it an environmental issue it is also a land rights issue. We sit over the Marcelus shale and another deeper shale layer Uticus (sp), and speculators are coming in from all over the world to buy up the mineral rights. It is standing room only in our rural courthouses Recorders’ office. It is the coal boom all over again. Fortunately, Ohio has the strongest mining regulations in the country, even stronger than the feds. The Farm Bureau is working to educate land owners so they don’t get taken advantage of. Going to bring lots of money in, but it will be another boom and bust cylcle. Appalachia – exploited like a 3rd world country for the minerals.

  3. greg draiss says:

    Where has the unbiased media been with the non dangerous side of the argument. So yet again we have a hollywood huckster to the rescue. I always love how people like him choose poor areas in which to live where they know they will be heard. Same here in Greene County NY. The rich gays, artsy farsty crowd moving in to low end Athens but not daring to step foot in middle class blue collar Coxsackie since no one there will listen to them. They are too busy working………………

    The TROLL

  4. Susan says:

    Hydrofracking, non-dangerous? Troll, if you haven’t seen “Gasland”, you need to. The guy who made it was considering leasing his land to one of those companies, but he was concerned enough over things he was hearing to do some research before he signed on the dotted line. “Gasland” is the result of his research. My God, people he interviewed would turn on their kitchen faucet and have flames shoot out! If that wasn’t bad enough, once the damage was uncovered and the homeowners tried to get the drillers to make things right, the response ran along the lines of “tough s**t”. Hydrofracking is NOT the way to go. And he chose poor areas because that’s where the drillers go – they know people are having a hard time economically, and that if they dangle a little money in front of them, they can probably expect success. They also know that poor people can’t hire attorneys to go after them to fix things. And incidentally, I have a vested interest in this, because I live in the Finger Lakes, and the gas companies are trying with might and main to get in here. So far, our towns seem to be resisting the lure of the Almighty dollar, but time will tell….

  5. Roger says:

    I wonder how Sally would feel about $3 gas if suddenly she had no safe drinking water in her home thanks to a neighbor selling their mineral rights for fracking. We’ve been shielded for too long from the real cost of our addiction to fossil fuels, in riches and lives. We can live without oil and gas. We cannot live without water. The question that’s been bothering me lately is, where is Obama’s “Manhattan Project” for alternative clean energy? We need new ideas that don’t rape the planet and endanger our own lives. And I’m sorry, Mr. Troll, that you’re too busy working to care about what happens to the poor. I’m hard-working middle class, too, frustrated with the effort required just to maintain status quo — yet you and I both had time to comment here. I wonder how interested you really are in unbiased media? What if the reporter is an artsy-fartsy homosexual?

  6. Not to be all socially incorrect, but as a lower middle class writer (lower middle class because I chose to be a work-at-home mom) what I have seen in my 48 years is that much of the middle class and working class is far too busy trying to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads to educate themselves on these issues. THAT is why we need more people like Mark Ruffalo, more filmmakers, anyone who has the time to get involved and MAKE SOME NOISE. It is horrible reverse snobbism to think people who have the time and money to do something about it don’t have the right to be heard. We all love our families and most of us care deeply about the health of this country–and see it more important than money.

  7. Judy in Oberlin says:

    Because of his activism, Mark Ruffalo has been placed on a “terror watch list”. Pretty sad. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1334159/Actor-Mark-Ruffalo-placed-terror-watch-list.html

  8. SJ says:

    This is a tricky topic – I can both identify Shira’s side (I’m working class myself) and those that are for Ruffalo’s agenda of clean water. Sounds like class warfare – the haves, the sort of have and have nots.

    I think he really is trying to do something good & positive and yes, it is usually those that have the money and the time that are the movers and the shakers of this world – Personally, I would say water quality would be higher on my list then gasoline prices even though I have to drive a van for work. As above posters have mentioned you can’t live without water. However, he needs to figure out a way to win over the sentiments the working and middle class people in his community to show them he is on their side not against them. Suggestions include – donating some money to shelters, volunteer work in the community. Making himself visible as a regular non-elitist kind of guy would go a long way in promoting his agenda.

  9. commonweeder says:

    Why is it that so many think the answer to the need for local oil and gas is finding more and more dangerous ways to produce it – and little energy to finding new ways of producing the energy that we all need?

  10. greg draiss says:

    @Roger Gasland was one sided like The Ozone Man Al Gorea and Micheal Moore. I did not say I was too busy working to care about the poor. My family and I support several food kitchens and homeless shelters with fresh food from our garden as well as donating cash and clothing. This actor moves into a run down economic graveyard for three mnths a year and becomes the poster child for the cause. As for unbiased media I (part of the vast right wing conspiracy) listen to NPR for my news as they are the least biased of any news organization IMO. I too Roger await O’Mans manhattan project as well. The answer is not shutting down exploration in the meantime. The answer lies in backyard wind and solar (oh forgot the Kennedy’s won’t like that)as well as larger projects.Gov’t subsidies to the wind/solar industry only stifles innovation.

    @Sandra: The middle class is not uneducated when it comes to these issues to assume so is yet another source of snobbism. Hollywood and their do as we say not as we do needs to stay the hell out of it. Who are they just because they are celebrities to become experts on the latest cause.

    The TROLL

  11. DE says:

    It’s like a gulf coast oil spill in the making. Hydrofracking is seriously bad news and all you have to do is take a trip to PA to find out for yourselves. Most people that have a laissez faire attitude are usually the ones far removed from the consequences of it. The cost of poisoned water tables and environmental hazards simply out weight what NY will receive from the gas extracted. You’d think that NY after spending endless millions of dollars and time cleaning up brownsites should know better.

  12. christy says:

    Sally, natural gas is barely used for transportation fuel in the US. Most of the vehicles that do run on natural gas are outside the U.S. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_gas, for example. When you’re filling your car, unless you have diesel, you’re filling with gasoline, not natural gas.

    Petroleum is the main source of gasoline, which is more than likely what you’re getting your undies in a bundle over paying $3/gallon for. Try again.

  13. christy says:

    I am so tired of the cliche about doubting famous peoples’ motives when they advocate for causes.

    Where is the line drawn between being too famous to genuinely support a cause and not? If I’m the lead actor in a local play production, and I advocate for the humane shelter, does that make me a phoney? Probably not. What if for a while I take a break from acting and do some day jobs — can I be an activist then, or will my early work as a local celeb make people doubt my sincerity? Then what if I get a break and get a minor role in a Hollywood film, but the film doesn’t do very well. Since I’m a celebrity, in Hollywood, I would think that many like The Troll here would have to not trust my motives. But since the film didn’t do that well, would I get to be at least, partly believable? Does anyone doubt that Charleton Heston genuinely cares about gun rights?

    Do y’all see how stupid it is to assume that any celebrity advocating for a cause is a phoney?? I mean, how many of us, when asked, “what would you do if you never had to worry about money again?”, would say something along the lines of “I’d volunteer at the shelter a little more often,” Or I’d donate a little extra to the Girls Scouts” or whatever… Everyone wants to do good. Celebrities are the ones who got lucky and thank goodness there are a few of them that actually do some genuine good with their fortune.

  14. another Sally says:

    One sided reporting of news in the area where ‘flames come out of the water faucet’—- those water wells have been documented with that problem for over 50 years– well before fracking began— and the locals know it. Hence, the verified documentation cleared the oil drilling company of responsibility in the fall. But “Gasland” continues to be shown, without that information corrected. Opponents of gas drilling are not interested in the facts . . . they are interested in perpetuating inflammatory stories.

  15. Fracking is a travesty of justice in this day and age. I agree with an earlier posting:”Where is ther media?” Hopefully Ruffalo’s passion will drsw them in at some time. Unfortunatly I see Silkwood comparisons.

  16. cellbioprof says:

    Previous posters are correct that the issue is so very much more than water contamination. For instance, the projection is between 35,000 and 95,000 acres of forest could be cleared for Marcellus gas extraction over the next 20 years in Pennsylvania. As gardeners, we should all be aware of the connection between biodiversity and human health: a good place to start is this article which briefly outlines the connection between loss of biodiversity and rise of emerging diseases such as SARS, West Nile virus, and Lyme disease (http://www.newsweek.com/2009/06/19/rise-of-the-bugs.html). Also excellent is this article from Audubon about the environmental impacts of Marcellus gas extraction: http://audubonmagazine.org/incite/incite1005.html

    Meanwhile, this gay scientist, child of working class parents, who teaches biology at a prestigious liberal arts college in SW PA (ground zero of the Marcellus play), will keep gardening for wildlife with native plants, expanding her raised bed vegetable gardens, splitting firewood for her new EPA-certified woodstove, gathering information in preparation for installing solar PV, and speaking out about the dangers of hydrofracking and for increased efficiency and cleaner energy that can truly be generated locally (even in your own backyard).

  17. Susan says:

    Sally, I find it very difficult to believe that people in that area have had flames coming out of their kitchen faucets for over half a century. Something like that would tend to be a turn-off for prospective buyers, and I don’t think anyone would put up with that for 50 years! Real estate would have taken a real hit even during boom times if that was the case. No, fracking is NOT the way to go! Looking for RENEWABLE energy sources is what we need to be doing.

  18. another Sally says:

    N0– they haven’t had flames coming out of their faucets for 50 years– but the methane gas that is part of their aquafer has been there and they could ignite it anytime they wanted. And that is what people do if they want to attract negative attention with the press. THIS IS NOT OCCURRING EVERYWHERE THERE IS DRILLING!
    And this is an extremely depressed area economically— and a small community that is affected with that in their wells. Northern PA hasn’t had a boom in real estate EVER, until recently. The last real employment opportunities left in the late 60s, early 70s.
    The larger picture is that people who have had their farms up for tax sale for years because they couldn’t keep up payments are now able to hold onto their family land and most are investing in farm equipment to continue their family farming traditions. It is one of the few areas of the country where the unemployment rate is rapidly going down and local businesses are beginning to expand– rather than going under like they are in so many communities. I live here– I know these people and I’ve watched this play out for my entire life. It’s easy to be judgmental when it is not your property that will go on the auction block and you lose your family inheritance. People who have lived hand to mouth all their lives and worked hard — now they can benefit.
    Yes, there needs to be strict regulation on how drilling is done to protect us all. And there are local people, educated and smart local people who support drilling. Mark Ruffalo can play at farming and use his celebrity status to voice his opinion because he already has made his money. It’s real for our local farmers who are now signing leases– and they don’t have the same platform. Take a moment to consider their viewpoint. Do you really think they would sell out that easily and destroy what they’ve worked a lifetime to hold onto?

  19. Susan says:

    Sally, I have two sisters living in PA – one for over 30 years, and I see what’s happening in your state every time I visit. I understand that there are people who feel that they have no choice. I understand better than a lot of people, because I had a time in my life when I was broke, unemployed and hungry. I might have been tempted to do something that seemed like a good idea at the time, but I always tried to think longer-term. I also know from that experience that we always have choices; they may not be ones we especially like, but there are always alternatives. Having said that, I will then only reiterate that fracking is a disaster, and it’s short-sighted. OK, so we come up with another 30 years of natural gas – what happens when that runs out? Our needs will be taken care of, but what about succeeding generations? This country has simply got to get serious about renewable energy, like wind turbines. Chances are pretty good that wind will never disappear – and I’d sure rather have turbines in my back yard than poisoned water and useless land.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Susan,
    Thank you for posting this. Mark Ruffalo is an attractive dude who has taken some good roles (haven’t seen Kids are all right yet). I am glad to know he is speaking up on fracking. Even though Gasland is 1-sided, I find it hard to see what the other side could say to justify polluting our water, making it flammable. Thanks for giving me another reason to appreciate this talented person. I hope Michele takes you up on the suggestion!

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