In a recent movie, I play a guy who gets pretty formidable when he gets angry. In real life, I get angry, too. I’m angry that we are still debating climate change, and that despite the reams of science-based evidence for it, there are still those who ignore the facts. I’m angry that we’re heavily investing in fossil fuels to power our nation, when greater investment in renewable energy represents jobs, energy stability — and the sustainability of life as we know it.
Mostly, though, I’m hopeful, because I think the tide is turning, and many — particularly young people — understand the existential threat we face and are prepared to do something about it.
The good news is we don’t need superhero strength to protect our planet. We need education, and a collective, grassroots movement that is well underway. As students across the country walk across graduation stages, wrestling with what comes next, I want to remind all of them of the power they have and the responsibility they bear.
No other generation will be called upon so extremely and immediately to be part of so big and monumental a task. It’s an exciting time to be alive. It’s a purpose driven time. It’s a time where our values as human beings can really come into focus.
I traveled recently to Dickinson College to receive the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize for Global Environmental Activism. I saw a college that immerses its students in an awareness of the environment and their impact on it. I met young people who were keenly aware of the environmental challenges ahead, committed to living sustainably, and creative enough to come up with solutions. Perhaps most impressive, I learned about a program where students and staff train community volunteers to monitor waterways and collect data — a program I would like see spread across this country.
I reminded Dickinson students that activist is not a dirty word. They need to challenge the status quo. Buck the system.
I became an activist a number of years ago, when a good friend took me to Dimock, Pa., and I met residents who were concerned that the fracking going on in their community was contaminating their drinking water. They were being ignored, and they asked me to be their voice.
I came home from that meeting, laid in bed and wrestled with what to do. I asked myself a crucial question: Ruffalo, are you really who you say you are? I talked a lot about justice and the importance of community. Did I mean it?
That meeting led me on a journey that continues today. It’s not enough to oppose fracking and fossil fuels. We need to support an energy solution for every state in this country. That’s why I am working with The Solutions Project, a data-driven organization working to achieve the transition to 100 percent renewable energy for all Americans by 2050.
Make no mistake. We are in a race against climate change. If we don’t make dramatic changes — soon — it won’t matter what political faction we align ourselves with or how much wealth we amass. We need more grassroots activism and a commitment to live our American values. We don’t need a superhero, but maybe we do need more people to get angry and turn that into action.