Wise Words
A moment with actress and environmentalist Blythe Danner

Q. You’re involved in the Green House Network’s Race to Stop Global Warming, an awareness-raising fitness walk series. How did that come about?

A. Matthew Follett, who heads the race, asked me to become the national honorary chairperson last year because he knew about my involvement in the environment. He had also heard that my late husband, Bruce, along with the Environmental Media Association, produced several public service announcements (PSAs) promoting independence from Middle Eastern oil. The PSAs were funded by the Union of Concerned Scientists and starred our daughter, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Cameron Diaz. They played extensively on the airwaves, and we believe they had an impact. We certainly hope so.

Q. Can you tell us some of the alarming statistics in regard to global warming?

A. If everyone in the world replaced one 100-watt lightbulb with a 27-watt compact fluorescent, energy-saving lightbulb the world would save as much CO2 as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.

Q. It’s not too late to stop global warming, is it?

A. Some people say it is, and I’m certainly not an expert, but I believe that if we treated this like the crisis it is we could stop it. America has to be willing to end its love affair with gas-guzzling cars.

Q. I’ve read about your car. It’s an electric-powered Toyota RAV4, right?

A. Yes, it’s the RAV4 electric. I love it. I can drive more than 80 miles on one charge. Sadly, they’ve stopped making them, but I’m glad to see more hybrids on the road and more interest in them. Apparently there are many long lists of people waiting for hybrids. That’s very good news.

Q. And you also have a solar-powered home?

A. Yes, I have voltaic solar panels on the roof of my house. I plug in my car, charge it from my own energy supply, and off I go. It’s such a great feeling.

Q. Were environmental issues instilled in you growing up?

A. My parents were Depression-era children, so we always turned out the lights when we left the room, turned down the heat, and put on a sweater. There was a cost consciousness which grew into an environmental one for me.

Q. Your grandfather was a big influence too, right?

A. My grandfather was Pennsylvania Dutch, and that ethic and lifestyle is one of honoring the Earth. I think that’s where my environmental consciousness was first raised.

Q. You were involved in popularizing recycling in its early years. Can you tell us about that?

A. When we were first married, Bruce and I lived uptown in New York, and the first recycling center was downtown. I was doing a Broadway play at the time, and when I wasn’t performing during the day I’d get on the bus with my bag full of cans and newspapers and go all the way downtown with them. When Gwyneth was born, we moved to California, and I joined the movement to begin sidewalk pickup in both Santa Monica and New York when I was there.

Q. How would you suggest we live more simply?

A. If you can walk, take public transportation, bicycle, or carpool, most of our energy problems would be solved. The United States is the largest throwaway society in the world. That’s a statistic we certainly should not be proud of. Like people living in a simpler time, we should make use of everything we have and recycle what we can.

Q. Any other message for our readers?

A. The prospect of having a grandchild has had a tremendous impact on my thinking. During the next 50 years our world population is projected to grow from 6 billion to nearly 9 billion. If we don’t act now it will be too late for future generations, and there will simply be no healthy air to breathe. The United States is the biggest contributor to emissions that cause global warming. It is our responsibility as citizens of our country, as well as of the world, to do our part and treat our Earth as sacred.

—Jena Hofstedt