Ed Begley Jr.

Ocean Pleasant: I want to know about your latest project, why you’re passionate about it, and what inspires you.

Ed Begley, Jr.: I’m working with Al Gore on something called the Climate Reality Project, and with Bill McKibben at 350.org.

OP: That’s awesome.

EB: I’m glad that they’re being featured and getting the recognition that they deserve, because it’s important work. I’m doing that kind of global work, but then I’m doing stuff locally. I’m trying to green up a lot of homes. Urging people to do everything that they can.

It’s going to take action from governments, from industry, and individuals. You can’t just do one of the things, because it won’t be enough to combat the climate change that we’re already starting to experience. It will only get worse.

We have lots of other problems with plastic in our oceans. There are five different big gyres of plastic out in the ocean. There are problems with air pollution around the country that we need to deal with, and around the world. We have a great many problems to overcome, so I work on a lot of different boards trying to help in those important areas.

I also, of course, use social media. I do interviews with wonderful people like you, Ocean, who are spreading the word. Young people who really understand. I’ll be long gone before the worst of these effects is felt, but you will be around to experience what is good about this planet—if we do it right, if we fix some of the problems. And we must.

OP: I’m really passionate about engaging youth to become invested in our planet. Do you have any tools to engage young people? Do you have anything to say to them?

EB: I think people love nature after they experience it. I know I experienced it as a young man—I took a lot of hikes, I was involved in scouting. There are many different ways now to experience nature. Get out there and hike. Do Outward Bound. Do these other wonderful programs. Do it just yourself, alone. Do it with a group. Experience nature. Then you know why it’s worth protecting.

We have our face down in these little devices a lot of the time. I own one myself. To be a modern person in 2012, you are often required to have some electronics in your life. And I do. I try to put that phone down, put the computer away, and get out there and hike in the woods; feel it in my feet, feel it in my hands; get out in the garden and feel the soil under my fingers, my fingertips and my fingernails. I try to be involved in nature in a very tactile way. I think that’s important.

It’s something I passed on to my kids. They really love the earth because they’ve experienced it from the youngest age. They know where food comes from—it doesn’t come from the Safeway bush or the Ralph’s tree. It comes from the earth. And water and sunshine and nutrients. My children understand that because they’ve experienced it. I feel successful as a parent, having done that.

OP: How do you use your platform as an actor to spread the word about ways that people can instigate positive change?

EB: When you’re in the public eye—whether it be entertainment, sports, medicine, politics, whatever way—you have an opportunity, and I think also an obligation and a responsibility, to disseminate good information.

That’s no reason to go out—since you have the microphone, since you have your moment in the spotlight—there’s no reason to go out and say, “FIRE! Everybody run for your lives!” You don’t want to alarm people. You cannot be quiet about things that you know. If you know there’s a fire smoldering in the basement and the fire marshal has told you about it, and you say, “Row by row, we’re going to begin to evacuate, we have to take action, the fire marshal just told me”—I have heard from those fire marshals. They are Bill McKibben; they are Henry Kendall, who is no longer with us, a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. These are people talking about the environment in an important way. That’s the fire marshal that told me, and I can’t just do a song and dance—I have to spread the word.

OP: Wow, very powerful. Thank you.

Climate Reality Project

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