You may have seen a recent LA Times article about a growing concern of using oil field water to raise crops: I’m happy to discuss that, and have brought along with me Scott Smith, the chief scientist from Water Defense (https://waterdefense.org).
I’m sure we’ll get some other questions, but AMA. Victoria’s helping me out over the phone.
What are your thoughts on the recent outburst of criticism against Joss Whedon regarding Scarlet Johannson’s character, Black Widow?
[Mark Ruffalo] I think it’s sad. Because I know how Joss feels about women, and I know that he’s made it a point to create strong female characters. I think part of the problem is that people are frustrated that they want to see more women, doing more things, in superhero movies, and because we don’t have as many women as we should yet, they’re very, very sensitive to every single storyline that comes up right now. But I think what’s beautiful about what Joss did with Black Widow – I don’t think he makes her any weaker, he just brings this idea of love to a superhero, and I think that’s beautiful.
If anything, Black Widow is much stronger than Banner. She protects him. She does her job, and basically they begin to have a relationship as friends, and I think it’s a misplaced anger. I think that what people might really be upset about is the fact that we need more superhuman women. The guys can do anything, they can have love affairs, they can be weak or strong and nobody raises an eyebrow. But when we do that with a woman, because there are so few storylines for women, we become hyper-critical of every single move that we make because there’s not much else to compare it to.
So I know Joss really well. I know what his values are. And I think it’s sad, because in a lot of ways, there haven’t been as many champions in this universe as Joss is and will continue to be. And I know it hurts him. I know it’s heavy on him. And the guy’s one of the sweetest, best guys, and I know him – as far as any man can be a champion for women, he is that.
So it’s been a little disheartening.
But I also see how much people love that aspect of it. There’s an equal amount of people who find the love interest between Banner and Black Widow to be a big standout. And it’s very satisfying to people. So it’s a movie. People are going to have their opinions. And that’s actually a great thing. The fact that this is a debate that’s coming out of this movie is probably a positive thing.
I just don’t think that people should get personal with Joss, because he really is – of anyone – an advocate for women. He’s a deeply committed feminist.
What can we do to make a change in regards to oil field water and its use on crops? Is there anything specific that you would suggest?
[Scott Smith] Great question. Every person can make a difference to protect our future by contacting Water Defense and joining us to deploy our technology for complete water testing and exposing water contamination so we can bring people together to find solutions and protect our world for future generations.
Specifically in California with the oil wastewater being used to irrigate crops, you can contact the Central Valley Water Board, the Cawelo Water District, and your elected officials to demand more water testing and the methods used by Water Defense to ensure all cancer causing chemicals in the water are identified.
How did you get to know Mark Ruffalo?
[Scott Smith] Mark Ruffalo and John Pratt reached out to me when I was on the ground during the ExxonMobil Mayflower Pegasus pipeline tar sands oil spill in March of 2013. Mark and John and Water Defense were looking for water testing technology that could accurately identify all toxic chemicals in the water and I invented this technology during the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010
Are there ways to help you guys?
[Scott Smith] Join us at Water Defense. you can contact us at email@example.com : web site is WaterDefense.org
What testing is currently being done on this water before it is used?
[Scott Smith] Great question: 1. Most of the time no testing is being done. 2. When testing is done it is incomplete and only takes samples for a split second from the surface of the water. 3. Because of #1 and #2 the current system is being gamed by polluters. 4. Water Defense’s cumulative water testing technology is essentially a security camera for what is in the water and cannot be gamed or manipulated by polluters. This is why we are uncovering contamination throughout the World and once we identify the contamination we work to bring people together and solve the problem.
What’s one thing Mark Ruffalo is always angry about?
[Mark Ruffalo] Greed.
With the drought hitting California so hard (as well as many other places in the southwest), what do you feel are the best options for dealing with what is likely to be the “new norm” for the foreseeable future?
[Mark Ruffalo] Well, clearly we are gonna have to re-think the way we use water. And how much we use. In a lot of places, because of climate change, the days of endless water are no longer available to some regions. So water is clearly becoming a precious commodity. It actually always has been, but we’ve always had it in such abundance that we’ve forgotten to prioritize it the way it deserves. By moving to renewable energy, we’ll be able to save trillions of gallons of water that are used in either creating steam, to power turbines, in our coal / gas-powered energy power plants, hydro-fracking, or by steam stimulation, or by tar sands extraction. All of these extraction methods use enormous amounts of fresh water. By moving to a renewable energy paradigm, all of that water will become available to us, instead of needing to be disposed of as a toxic waste by deep-well injecting it and taking it from the water table forever.
Mark, what is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
[Mark Ruffalo] The best compliment I’ve ever received? Probably that I’m a good father.
Mark, what would you consider your biggest achievement to date? What do you look forward to doing next?
[Mark Ruffalo] As far as activism goes, the fracking ban in New York State is our biggest achievement yet. And I look forward to continuing this discussion and educating folks about the dangers of extreme fossil fuels extraction, like hydrofracking. And look forward to the hope and the promise of a renewable energy future, which includes clean water, clean air, clean food, more jobs, healthier people, and less world strife.
[Scott Smith] Education is a founding principle of Water Defense and we are so proud of all the kids we are working with that will become tomorrow’s leaders and change the World for the better by preserving and protecting the World’s waterways.
Avengers: Age of Ultron has hit the box office and is shaping up to be Marvel’s biggest movie ever. Among the large ensemble in the movie, your character, Bruce Banner/Hulk stands out for many reasons. We see an added layer of depth to the character where we see how Bruce doesn’t like ‘Hulking out’ and that hurting all the people that he does breaks him on the inside. All this culminates with Bruce as Hulk just going away to an unknown location which said volumes about the character. I loved that last scene because it culminated a perfect character arc for Bruce/Hulk and it also showcased your acting prowess. What I want to ask you is that what was YOUR favorite ‘Bruce/Hulk’ scene and why? And which was the most fun scene to shoot for the movie?
[Mark Ruffalo] My favorite scene is – Bruce is the one person who, it’s interesting, he’s a pacifist. He wants to settle things without relying on violence, or the Hulk. But clearly, in this world that they’re living in, that’s not really happening. So he’s deeply conflicted. And I think we’re all conflicted about that particular issue. And I think that’s why it resonates so deeply with people. We all understand the power of anger. But we also have in our nature decency and human kindness. And these two things butt up against each other in us, and create a conflict, and that’s universal. That’s the same with every human being around the world.
So I think that’s one reason why the Banner/Hulk paradigm, or character, really resonates with people.
One of my favorite scenes, honestly, was just the superheroes hanging out, drinking beers, having a party and goofing off with Thor’s hammer! That’s classic Joss Whedon, and those moments when we see our superhumans just being human are really, I think, some of my favorite moments in the movie. And I think it’s part of the reason why the movie worked so well, is because Joss Whedon really understands that, and is interested in that himself.
Mark, do you think that last nights NDP sweep of the Alberta elections will have a negative impact on the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline? If not, will you smash it for us?
[Mark Ruffalo] One can only hope so!
And it could DEFINITELY use a little SMASH.
Mark! I’m curious, being in your position, have you given any thought to doing your own documentary on why it’s so critical we all start caring and getting involved in things like this? Honestly, you have completely changed the way I think about and use water. It hits so much closer to home than people realize.
[Mark Ruffalo] We’re actually working on a documentary with Scott right now that would take us through his journeys through the 45 different contamination sites that he’s visited. And bring more awareness to what’s happening with our water. Right now, there’s not a lot of good data on water contamination, and because of that, polluters feel free to keep using our waterways as dumping grounds. So the more clarity and data we bring to this debate and conversation, the better chances we have of stopping polluters and holding the ones accountable who ARE polluting.
Scott, in your opinion, what is the biggest threat to healthy, drinkable and environmentally safe water?
[Scott Smith] Wow great and challenging question. I believe the greatest threat is the general apathy of today’s society. We want to change that one person at a time and build a movement with millions of people to help us with our open-source technology and educate the world on all sources of water contamination and then solve the problem with the best available technologies.
What book is your favorite? And what book inspires you in your life?
[Mark Ruffalo] My favorite book? Oh man, that’s tough!
These questions are always so hard for me to answer.
Right now, my favorite book is Wally Lamb’s I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE, which I’m working with him to make into a television show.
And I’ve been inspired by it because of its message of forgiveness for ourselves, and our past.
My boyfriend CONSTANTLY leaves the water running whenever he brushes his teeth. Can you please tell him to stop being wasteful?! He can’t argue with the Hulk.
[Mark Ruffalo] Hahaha!
DUDE! You’re just wasting water!
And by the way – you’re throwing money away! All of that water, you’re paying for! And it’s all going down the drain! At least put a pot inside the sink and boil potatoes with it! Hahaha! But to let it keep running is literally like throwing money out the window!
Do you have some good memories from film festivals?
[Mark Ruffalo] I have great memories from film festivals. That’s the one place where new films, and usually some difficult films, get a chance to perform in the world, and it’s usually the first time the world’s ever seeing it. So the reactions are really powerful. And there was a moment when I was going to quit acting, and a movie played, THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT, and it played for the first time in front of an audience, and it made me remember why it was what it was, and why I loved being an actor, which I forgot for a moment.
What is one simple thing I can adopt into my everyday life to waste less water without becoming a vegetarian? What can I do in my community to prevent water contamination?
[Mark Ruffalo] Haha! Um… well, take shorter showers. Don’t let the water run when you’re brushing your teeth. Don’t water your yard. Move to drought-resistant plants and ground covers. And put low-flow shower heads on your showers. And then last I would say, don’t eat meat one or two days a week. Every little bit makes a difference.
I live in CA and am just now reading this LA Times article! What has been some of the feedback from the farmers and oil companies since this article, if any?
[Scott Smith] The oil companies are in denial and the farmers are very concerned. We are calling for transparent testing of the irrigation water that involves Chevron, CA regulators, and Farmers. We want to publicly do more testing and post testing results on a monthly basis. This is the only way to bring people together and solve the problem.
Mark, what is your favourite lullaby?
[Mark Ruffalo] Frere Jacques.
Mark, you’re 75% Italian. What’s your favorite Italian food or recipe?
[Mark Ruffalo] Eggplant parmigiana.
What can the rest of us (people outside of CA) do to help with the drought and the Water Defense Organization?
[Mark Ruffalo] Well, just signing up with us at https://waterdefense.org, and joining in the conversation, is a HUGE thing. A big part of all this is just education. And becoming aware of our water environment, and being active in protecting it. Awareness is probably 90% of the fight. And becoming active, which would mean petitioning your local governments. And understanding the importance and sanctity of our water. It really is the foundation of all life. And we forget that, because it’s so abundant.
But we’re now entering a time when it won’t be so abundant. And it needs protecting.
What kind of movie you are shooting prefer? Horrors or romantic or drama…..?
[Mark Ruffalo] I haven’t done too many horror movies? But I like all the different genres. I like – each genre sort of has its own style, and its own challenges. I like to work across genres, and I like to challenge expectations from fans and also challenge my own expectations and limitations. So I like to work across genres. I don’t have a favorite, honestly.
Mark, what are your thoughts on Water privatisation?
[Mark Ruffalo] I think water privatization is a huge mistake. And I think it’s a cynical move on certain business interests to commodify something that is needed for ALL living things. It’s as problematic as commodifying the air, or privatizing oxygen. It’s basically a human right. And human rights should not be commodified.
Mark, thank you for your advocacy against fracking. I live in Florida, which has a very fragile groundwater system, and of course our state legislature is pushing fracking through. Where should we start to fight?
[Mark Ruffalo] In New York, the most important things, and powerful things, were public hearings – many, many public hearings, so that people became educated. And public gatherings. It is important to get protestors in front of your politicians. They do not like to be dogged by protestors – even if it’s a handful of them! But the more public gatherings you can create, the better. They may feel like they’re not working at first. But a long prolonged campaign of public protests will begin to move the dial.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s a lot of work.
But it’s worth it.
And by getting out in public, you will be educating anyone who comes across you.
Which chemical is the worst for human life in fracking if it gets into groundwater and why?
[Mark Ruffalo] It’s hard to say. Essentially, the chemicals that are used in fracking are similar to the chemicals found in cigarette smoke that cause cancer. Like Benzene-related compounds. There’s pthalates and endocrine disrupters that cause abnormalities in genetic processes, like the feminization of the male reproductive system. And then there’s a whole host of chemicals we’re not privy to, because the fossil fuels industry refuses to disclose what chemicals they’re using in their fracking fluid.
Which US state has the best and sanest laws on fracking that others should adopt or emulate?
[Mark Ruffalo] Well, the health and environmental impacts of hydro-fracking are still being evaluated. But 75% of all the studies have indicated that there are enormous negative health and environmental consequences, as well as a multitude of anecdotal evidence that points to the outcome that hydro-fracking cannot be done safely. Even with the best regulations, the well linings are failing at 6%. Which means 6 out of 100 wells are leaking.
They have drilled tens of thousands of wells.
At 6% failures – that’s a huge problem.
Horizontal high-pressure hydro-fracking is a relatively new technology.
We have no idea what the long-term health and environmental impact of this process will lead to. Which is why there’s a great deal of wisdom in New York State’s and Governor Cuomo’s ban on hydro-fracking until there are enough scientific and healthcare studies to indicate that it can be done safely.
Mark! How was it working with Rian Johnson and the rest of the cast on Brothers Bloom?
[Mark Ruffalo] Loved working with Rian. He is an incredibly gifted film maker and a really fine man. I hope he has a place for me in the new StarWars. Knock knock, Rian.
Where do you think Marvel will go with Bruce Banner’s story?
[Mark Ruffalo] I have no idea, hahaha!
Last I heard, he was on a quick-jet into oblivion.
Is there an actor/actress you have wanted to meet and work with but haven’t gotten to yet?
[Mark Ruffalo] I’d love to work with Emma Stone.
And I’d love to work with Ryan Gosling.
And Tom Hardy!
And also Michael Fassbender.
Your role in Foxcatcher is amazing. How did you prepare for it? Also the performances of Channing and, of course Steve, are amazing as well. Just curious. It kinda came as a suprise how good it turned out to be.
[Mark Ruffalo] Yea, I agree with you! I thought Channing was incredible in that movie, as well as Steve.
I felt Channing deserved a lot more credit than he was given. Channing and I both started wrestling together 7 months before we shot a single frame of wrestling. We both spent a lot of time in the gym, building muscle mass and learning how to look like Olympic champion wrestlers (which was no easy feat, especially for me).
And I spent hours and hours and hours watching and studying Dave Schulz tapes, and talking to family and friends.
I was wondering if you had any tips on going into the film industry?
[Mark Ruffalo] Be respectful to those around you at all times. Do your work better than anyone. Be serious about your work. Be damn good when it your turn at bat which means being well prepared.
I saw your film What Doesn’t Kill You at the Toronto International Film Festival years back, it struck a chord with me and I own the DVD. Do you still talk to Brian Goodman and if so how is he doing? Also what is it like to be directed by the man you’re portraying?
[Mark Ruffalo] I talked to Brian yesterday, he’s a dear friend of mine.
And it was an honor to play him. And we’re talking about doing some other things together soon.
It’s always difficult to play a real human being. Because you’re trying to capture the essence of them in an honest and respectable way. But when you’re playing interesting people, you have a much greater chance of doing that.
Mark! You have such fantastic hair. Do you have a special trick that makes it so fantastic?
[Mark Ruffalo] Hahaha! Uh… no, that was just something I was blessed with.
And I have no control over it. It has a complete mind of its own.
How was it to work with Tom Cruise?
[Mark Ruffalo] He was really professional and really nice. I only had one tiny scene with him but it was a very good experience.
If there is current concern to using oil field water for raising crops, what is your view on desalinated water instead? Any nutritional detriment to doing this?
[Mark Ruffalo] Desalinated water has its own set of problems. We may be moving towards it, but it creates an enormous concentration of salt that has to be disposed of somehow – usually done by putting it back into the saltwater where it’s being desalinated. This causes HUGE shifts in water salination, which affects many of the coastal species from where they’re getting the water. It would be sad if mankind had to move to desalinization as our only of getting fresh water, but that may be where we’re headed. I don’t know about the nutritional aspect of that question, thought.
Do you get any inspiration to learn science from Bruce Banner?
[Mark Ruffalo] Sure!
I’ve always been interested in science.
And Banner has given me the freedom to follow those interests, while being paid as an actor.
It all goes under “character development.”
Mark, I loved you in The Normal Heart and Avengers. Which causes more earthquakes: Fracking or the Hulk?
[Mark Ruffalo] Hahahahaha!
At this point, it would have to be fracking.
In Ohio, they’re happening, several a month now. And if Banner has his way- you’ll only see the Hulk every once in a great, great while!
How do you feel about California’s Big Ag and Fracking companies being allowed to skirt the water restrictions?
[Scott Smith] It is the elected officials and the regulators in California that are responsible for allowing Big Ag and Oil companies to skirt the water restrictions and not testing the water properly and adequately. Elected officials need to do the right thing and represent the people in their communities and not take the money from the big corporate lobbyists.
I have been researching the clean water act during my current semester at an environmental law school. Has waterdefense located an area where the canals flow into rivers, ponds, wetlands, etc? If so, the oil water could be considered a pollutant under CWA?
[Scott Smith] Great question and we would like to help you with your research. The oil water is a pollutant under the CWA. Yes, there are many examples which include but are not limited to Gowanus Canal Brooklyn, NY, disappearing wetlands all over Cape Cod, Charles River Boston, MA. I just made recommendations at the request of the EPA to the pending oil spill law / regulation changes. This is very important and we need to educate millions of people on this and have all call for action to the EPA and elected officials to adopt our recomendations that will protect all ecosystems and communities. My public recommendations will be posted on the Water Defense web site today.