Daryl Hannah: The actress & the activist

G Magazine

Surrounded by the glitzy façade of Hollywood, Daryl Hannah’s real world is an eco-escape of green thumbs, biodiesel and environmental activism.


Daryl Hannah

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With her golden locks, soft-spoken nature and Hollywood fame from films such as Splash and Kill Bill, Daryl Hannah’s extensive green credentials, may come as a surprise to some. After all, how many actresses will you see pouring themselves a glass of biodiesel from a fuel pump and taking a sip? Or coming all the way to Australia only to spend weeks burying her hands deep in compost?

Hannah lives off-grid in a solar powered ranch, grows her own vegies for farmers markets, has joined Sea Shepherd on a whale-saving mission to Antarctica and has two arrests under her belt from her long list of environmental activism. Yep, when it comes to being a bona fide greenie, Hannah is as genuine as they come.

Recently in Australia to complete her Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) and offer support for a range of environmental events around the country, Hannah told G she learnt some valuable lessons.

“I’ve been interested in permaculture for many years. My friend Dulcie Ford’s mother studied permaculture back in the day, in 1988, and she started my garden at home – it’s amazing how luscious it is!

Dulcie and I took the PDC together and only now do I really understand how permaculture is a philosophy of design that applies to all aspects of life.

Mimicking nature’s genius, permaculture practices can aid in building incredibly fertile deep soil (sequestering masses of carbon dioxide), help with water catchment, irrigation and filtration. It can maximise the benefits that other creatures bring to the land while also allowing them to flourish, and strategise wise, efficient, functional and beautiful designs in our dwellings. In our PDC we learned simple inexpensive ways to make wildly productive fertilizer, natural pesticides, and non-toxic fungicides as well as ways to irrigate using gravity and water catchment systems. There are also ways to humanely integrate animals into your farm system and methods to make cities and rural dwellings extremely beautiful and much more low impact.”

Image on right: Hannah in Cairns to learn the details of permaculture. Credit: www.freerangepermaculture.com.au

Hannah’s commitment to the environment began at home in the Rocky Mountains – a restored stagecoach stop that is completely off the grid. Surrounding Hannah’s home is a great menagerie of animals and a thriving organic vegetable garden.

“My house was fashioned from the pieces of an old carriage house that had a date with a wrecking ball. I had the chance to rescue some of it before the destruction.

The ancient wide plank maple was in perfect condition and it was the perfect modest size. We put it back together like a numbered puzzle – except I faced it south west for optimal passive solar heat in winter and cooling in summer.

I put in radiant heating under the floors, reused much of the rock and scrub oak that we removed for the foundation and added an active solar array as well.

There’s so much more I could have and would have done had I understood as much about permaculture design as I do now. I would have built a ‘cold closet’ like David Holmgren and his wife Su have in their house, which works brilliantly as an energy-free fridge! I plan to use some of my new knowledge on my crop areas.

This year I travelled a lot so the garden didn’t go off as it normally does but we usually grow a lot more than we can eat – so we gift, barter and send some to the farmers market. [My animals are] a rotating misfit circus of rescue critters – horses, dogs, alpacas, chickens, a cat and a pig.”

Image on right: Hannah spent three weeks in a walnut tree to protest the closing of South Central Los Angeles Farm.

Well-known for her conversion to biofuels, Hannah has converted a number of cars, including a 1983
El Camino and the Trans Am her character from Kill Bill drove, to use alternative fuels. She is also the co-founder of the Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance.

“I’ve made my own biodiesel and it’s not too complicated a process, but now I mostly buy it from our local co-op made from the restaurant grease in our community. I have drunk it (Hannah drank it in one of her videos for her website dhlovelife.com), though I wouldn’t recommend it! I did it to illustrate how much less toxic it is than petroleum. I also recently had the Kill Bill Trans Am converted to run on 100 per cent alcohol so soon I’ll be learning about distilling alcohol fuel from starchy waste material.”

Non-specific and widespread when it comes to the environmental causes she devotes her time and passionate energies to, Hannah emphasises the interconnectedness of all animal, humanitarian and environmental concerns.

“It seems as a species, we’ve lost touch with our common sense! Why would we poison our soils and food supply, contaminate our precious fresh water sources and use the oceans as a dumping ground? You don’t need to be a genius to realize that’s just stupid!

Of course I understand that much of the modernisation and innovation that came with the industrial revolution has brought us a lot of good, but now we also understand the dangers of industrial agricultural practices - such as monocropping, GMOs, and the inhumane, unethical livestock production that factory farming has brought us. Business, corporations and governments have been operating with such massive blatant disregard for this planet and every other living creature, that it’s insane! How can we sit back and let them pillage, commit crimes against nature, atrocities against our fellow men and endanger everyone’s futures all in the name of greed or profit?

To top it off they get away with anything and everything with no confrontation or consequences because either we’re sleepwalking or we’ve all bought into the notion that they’re too powerful and there’s nothing we can do. Well, it’s just not true! 

We need to protect our streams, rivers and oceans as well as the life in them, preserve any fresh, uncontaminated water, and figure out ways to equitably distribute energy and food. 

Population growth is definitely one [of our biggest problems]. We’ve got to slow down!”

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