When an Alaska-bound oil rig docked in the New Zealand port of Taranaki, actor Lucy Lawless (a Kiwi herself) and six Greenpeace activists snuck aboard, climbed its 174-foot drilling tower, unfurled bright yellow banners that said "Stop Shell" and "#SaveTheArctic" -- and wouldn't descend. Three days later, they were all arrested and charged with trespassing. Lawless might be best known for her past role as Xena the Warrior Princess, but her fight scenes are now all about preserving the planet.
Q: What inspired your eco-activism?
A: I got involved because climate change is real, it's manmade, and to not address our fossil-fuel consumption is an act of intergenerational abuse. Our grandchildren will damn us for our laziness, greed, and negligence.
Q: Tell us about the Save the Arctic campaign.
A: It's a massive push of people power. We need to head off climate change and move toward sustainable energy. Drilling for oil in the Arctic is climate-change profiteering. It's morally wrong, environmentally wrong -- it's wrong all around. If you have a blowup, the oil could stagnate for years under the ice.
Q: Day to day, how do you live green?
A: I drive a Prius, I fly as little as possible, eat less meat, and wear a backpack everywhere so that I never have to take plastic bags from shops. Lots of little things like that.
Q: Do you have an object that represents your environmental commitment?
A: I'm wearing it now. This greenstone necklace -- pounamu, we call it here -- was given to me by the [indigenous Maori] Parihaka community. Rata Pue bestowed it on me when we came down from the ship. He died months later. I wear this lovely little talisman to help me be like him. It reminds me of the peaceful warrior I have to be to protect the earth's rights.
--interview by Carolyn Cotney / photo courtesy Jeff Vogeding
This article originally appeared in Sierra magazine.