SANTIAGO CANYON – Local activists jumped to their feet and applauded actress Daryl Hannah's call for a paradigm shift away from the consumption of fossil fuels, putting a stop to mountaintop removal and stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.
"We can't live without our water, soil, air and biodiversity," Hannah said. "We need to get off our butts and do it. We need to get together and realize we're on the same team whether we're blue or red, Democrat or Republican. We want to live. It's about loving something and protecting it."
ADVERTISEMENTThe Hollywood actress, known for protesting against mountaintop removal in the coal mining industry, fighting human trafficking, speaking out against environmental toxins and recently arrested in front of the White House for opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, was the keynote speaker Saturday night at the 8th annual Tree Huggers Ball.
The event was held by the Canyon Land Conservation Fund, founded by Chay Peterson. The fundraiser included live music, educational booths regarding environmental issues, and a barbecue. Proceeds go to conservation efforts in the Santa Ana Mountains and to save the habitat of the endangered arroyo toad. Hundreds attended the event and partied into the early morning hours.
Key local topics discussed included "Save Santiago Canyon," an effort to stop a 65-home development that would require an amendment to the Foothill Trabuco Specific Plan.
The Saddleback Crest development is before the County of Orange Planning Commission and is planned for a site next to the Santiago Estates and the Santiago Equestrian center just off Santiago Canyon Road.
Activists oppose the development and are concerned about traffic, noise and safety impacts in the canyon area. They are also keeping an eye on the Holtz Ranch, a site where St. Michael's Abbey is hoping to build a new school and facility.
"Having Daryl Hannah here is huge, she's a global environmental figure," said Gloria Sefton, co-founder of the Saddleback Canyons Conservancy, an organization dedicated to preserving the rural canyons in southeast Orange County. "It's bringing all the things she fights for to a local level. It's important for local citizens to get on board with what she is talking about globally. We need to get off our butts and act. Developing virgin land just can't happen any more. We need that paradigm shift."
In an interview with the Register at the ball, Hannah talked about becoming an activist and what others can do.
Q. You're back for a second time at the Tree Hugger's Ball, why?
A. I've spent enough time in California to think of this as my neighborhood. I feel connected to it. Judy Bonds (an Appalachian mom who led the charge against mountaintop removal) was a great influence on me. I met her in West Virginia and got arrested with her. When I heard she spoke here in 2010, I had to come here too. I love this homemade event. It makes me feel good when I see people enjoying themselves outside and not shopping in a mall. It's nice to see people enjoying good food, music and dressing up like fairies.
Q. On stage, Gloria Sefton brought you into the conversation about a development project planned for virgin land in the canyon, what do you think about this?
A. I'd like to see the canyon preserved as it is. It's an essential part of our nature to have access to open wild space. We suffer from nature deficit disorder. It's a serious disorder that's found in children in cities. It creates a disassociation with nature and anti-social behavior.
Q. Those who heard you speak last year were impressed with your knowledge but even more admired your "genuineness." How do you shed the "Hollywood mantle" and make others feel so comfortable.
A. I've worked since I was 11. I didn't really become what others in Hollywood call successful until I was 24. I learned it's a matter of luck, fortitude and perseverance. I never took success personally. I just have been able to hold on to my center of gravity. I am who I am. Places like the 'red carpet' make me feel strange. That's where I don't know how to act. This (here) does not make me feel awkward.
Q. Still, who you are makes people stand up and take notice. What impact can the everyman/woman have in the fight for the environment?
A. I think everyone can do it. We're facing the sixth mass extinction. We've lost 90 percent of the big fish in the ocean; we're losing 250 species a day. We're in a crisis on every level. It doesn't matter what your job is, do something to focus on the world.
Q. What are some of your upcoming projects?
A. I'm doing a movie in September, a Quentin Tarantino-type vibe that's very British. I just finished a movie with Brooke Shields, Virginia Madsen and Wanda Sykes about women on a basketball team challenging a high school championship team. I follow my heart in activism and don't really plan it out. I am going to go to a marine and predator sanctuary in Fiji and later to swim with whales.
Q. You became a vegetarian at 7, why?
A. I was on a trip with my parents in Wisconsin and didn't want to go into a restaurant they went to, so they left me in the car. I was walking around the parking lot (when it was still safe to do that) and I saw this truck with a baby calf. I went over to it and kissed and hugged it through the railings. When the driver came out, I asked what the calf's name was. He said 'veal, tomorrow morning at 7 a.m.' After that, I could no longer disassociate what was on my plate for the creature that it had been. It wasn't an ethical or health choice, it was purely emotional. When you make a decision for yourself, it's often the best decision for everything.