In “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” co-star Paul Newman delivers the famous line: “I have vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals.” But when it comes to preserving the environment, it’s actor-director-activist Robert Redford who is anything but myopic.
For more than 30 years, Redford has championed eco-rights. Next spring, his Sundance Channel will launch the Green, weekly programming devoted to environmental topics.
In a conversation with Variety, Redford answers some green questions.
How did you first become concerned about the environment?
“I first truly felt the power of nature was when I worked at Yosemite as a teenager, and in years following, I watched Los Angeles go from orchards and open space to concrete and smog.”
Name your personal top three accomplishments as an environmentalist.
“I was part of a group in 1975 that successfully fought against the building of a coal-fired power plant that was to be constructed in an area of southern Utah.
“In 1998, my family and I put 860 acres of Sundance, Utah, wilderness into a land trust to protect it from development.
“I am proud of the track record of my own organizations, such as the Institute for Research Management (IRM), the North Fork Preservation Alliance and now the Sundance Preserve.”
Is Hollywood doing its part to advocate change among its own and the rest of the country?
“I think Hollywood comes and goes on issues, but the environment has taken hold with people who work in entertainment at all levels. The industry wields a lot of potential messaging power because of the power of popular culture. A responsibility comes with that to be clear, informed and knowledgeable about the issues.”
Actor or activist? Which label would you use first to describe yourself?
“Is that a trick question? I would call myself an actor-director and an activist.”
Name your eco icon.
“I try to keep the Native American philosophy in the forefront of my thinking always. Whatever you do today, think about what it means seven generations down the line.”
Which issue is most consuming to you right now?
“Global warming and its many related issues and solutions.”
How do you inspire people to get involved?
“I generally try to frame the discussion in terms of quality of life for future generations: our children and grandchildren.”
What is your eco mantra?
“We can’t take nature for granted. We have to care for the planet we have.”