Mark Tercek from Huffington Post recently talked with Edward about the environmental movement and issues, Ed’s beginnings as an environmentalist and the changes we should make.
While I’ve long respected Edward’s work in film, I have even greater admiration for his commitment to conservation and community development. Edward is president of the U.S. Board of the Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust, which protects the landscapes and biodiversity of East Africa through conservation that directly benefits local Maasai communities. In 2010, he was appointed United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Edward is also helping change the field of philanthropy by co-founding CrowdRise, a social fundraising site that makes it easy and fun for people to raise money for their favorite causes.
Mark Tercek: Of course you’re well known as an actor, but you are also an exceptionally engaged and influential environmentalist. How and when did you become so involved in environmental issues?
Edward Norton: Most of what I know about environmental conservation I learned from my father, who has been a leader within the movement for over 30 years.
When I was growing up he was the Policy Director for the Wilderness Society; he went on to found and run the Grand Canyon Trust; was one of the founders of the Rails to Trails Conservancy; chairman of the Board of the Wyss Foundation; and of course, as you know, he oversaw the inception of The Nature Conservancy’s Yunnan Great Rivers project in China and was a senior advisor to the Asia-Pacific program. Now he’s the sustainability chief for one of the largest private equity firms in the world. So he’s literally come at these issues from every imaginable angle and I’ve been learning at his feet since I was a kid.
He’s still my main guru and all of my interest and involvement in these issues is rooted in his spiritual love of the outdoors and wild places married with a very prescient intellectual certainty that environmental degradation and ecosystem collapse was going to be the most significant threat to civilization in the next century.
I’d say that, in addition to actually taking my brother and sister and I camping and hiking and river rafting all our lives and introducing us to the power of natural landscapes, his biggest impact on my thinking has been to always argue that the “spiritual case for Nature” was not going to outweigh the needs of 7 billion people and to insist that law, science and economics were the critical frameworks through which we had to defend the value of nature.
Mark Tercek: Very prescient indeed. From your vantage point, are we making good progress demonstrating the value of nature through those frameworks? What is the environmental movement doing well, and where do we have room for improvement?
Edward Norton: I think that the environmental movement is wisely moving away from a largely emotion-based argument for the spiritual or intrinsic value of Nature with a capital “N” and evolving toward a very hard-nosed case for the economic value of natural capital, ecosystem services, biodiversity, etc. Most of us still believe in the intrinsic value of nature, but I think the first century of the environmental/conservation movement demonstrated pretty clearly that this value cannot compel a civilization-wide shift toward sustainable behavior and enterprise when stacked up against the urgent economic and social needs of 7 billion people, most of whom are struggling to get out of poverty.
So the “environmental movement” is becoming an economic movement, is joining the social justice movement, is becoming a sustainability movement. It’s leaving behind the “People’s Needs versus Nature’s Needs” conflict in favor of making the case for environmental health as the essential underpinning of prosperous and stable human civilization. The best news is that the data, the math, the science… it all supports what environmentalists have been saying for decades, which is that we mess with the complex mechanics of the biosphere at our peril.
I think we have to do a better and speedier job of pressing this perception shift forward though. Too many people, too many governments are still getting away with indulging in the delusion that the market is, or ever has been, an honest one. Too much of the external costs have been left off the books and it’s up to the environmental movement to force them internal. That’s going to change everything. Much more than people changing what kind of light bulbs they use, frankly.
Mark Tercek: Speaking of change, at The Nature Conservancy we are working to inspire and engage younger, more diverse and urban audiences. What advice do you have for us here? How can we bring more people into the conservation tent?
Edward Norton: That’s a very complex challenge. Most people don’t relate to and can’t generate concern for something they don’t encounter personally or feel personally affected by. People have to have the palpable negatives in their lives dissected for them in ways that let them understand the root causes of unhealthy, unhappy conditions in their lives and then be allowed to really see and feel the positive alternatives.
That’s why I get involved with some very humble but incredibly effective groups like Harlem Grown or Maasai Wilderness Conservation Trust as well as with larger global players like TNC and Conservation International.
Read full interview here.
First of all I’d like to apologize for not posting much lately. I’ve been traveling around and right now I have problems with the internet. I’ll do my best to catch up soon.
James Franco, Edward Norton and Zach Galifianakis teamed up Andy Samberg and the rest of the Lonely Island crew for a video which starts off as an episode of Galifianakis’ Between Two Ferns web series. James Franco admits he would like to work with Ed, and the interview between him and Zach soon breaks into a Spring Break Anthem where all the guys decide to marry one another.
Hilarious, isn’t it?
Even though I try to avoid posting news concerning Edward’s private life, I’d like to share this with you. Edward’s family got larger for a member in March, multiple sources share with Us Weekly. Somebody close to the family commented: “Thrilled and excited for parenthood.” Congratulations!
Edward is currently busy filming Birdman (costarring Emma Stone and Zach Galifianakis), which started 3 days ago.
Ed and his longtime love Shauna Robertson are expecting their first child any day now
“Ed is really excited for fatherhood. He helped pick out a stroller for the baby!” the insider told Us Weekly.
Edward Norton has been set to star in Birdman, the dark comedy that will be directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu for Fox Searchlight and New Regency. Norton joins Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis in a film that will be shot in a Broadway theater in New York beginning mid-April. A former actor (Keaton) who once played a superhero puts together a play on Broadway that is based on a short story by Raymond Carver. Unfortunately, the ex-superhero’s plans to soar again are threatened by his egotistical lead stage actor. Norton will play that actor. Birdman is produced by Inarritu, John Lesher and Robert Graf. The director wrote the script with Nicolas Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo. While Norton is as identified with serious dramas as much as Inarritu (who’s making his first comedy), this will be the actor’s third straight film with a comic sensibility.