Hayden Panettiere, Earth’s Cheerleader

By Jody McCutcheon

You don’t need special powers to be a hero. Just ask American actress Hayden Panettiere. Sure, she played indestructible teenage cheerleader Claire Bennet in the TV show Heroes. But Panettiere has also played herself in various activist roles, investing her own personal passion in environmental causes that matter to her.

For starters, she’s been active in campaigns to save dolphins and whales. Her efforts in disrupting the dolphin hunt in Japan earned her PETA’s “Compassion in Action Award.” She has engaged in diplomatic attempts to halt whale hunts in Japan and Norway and condemned commercial whaling for the crass money-grab that it is, while defending aboriginal whaling as a rite (right?) of culture.

Her only environmental misstep occurred in 2008, when she inexplicably released her own line of calfskin leather bags in collaboration with the company Dooney & Bourke. An achingly young, outspoken woman’s misguided enthusiasm, perhaps?  No matter. Earlier this year, the 2013 Environmental Media Awards presented Panettiere with their Futures Award for her work in protecting and preserving marine animals.


Situation Normal, All Fracked Up

She’s also become deeply involved in the Americans Against Fracking crusade with a galaxy of other stars, including Darryl Hannah, Marisa Tomei, Mark Ruffalo and Lance Bass. In association with the Environmental Media Association, Food & Water Watch and Environment California, Americans Against Fracking has made a series of videos that plead the anti-fracking case to President Obama and the Governors of California, Colorado and New York.

The videos are basically a Hollywood-style kick in the shins of government, a plea for sensibility after the California Department of Conservation’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources released draft fracking regulations that do little to protect Californians from the consequences of fracking.

Back in 2005, then-US Vice President Dick Cheney basically sidestepped the Clean Water Act to allow the dubious practice. Fracking is short for hydraulic fracturing, a process in which a solution of water, chemicals and sand is injected at high pressure into the earth’s bedrock, causing tiny fractures that allow the release of oil and gas.



Fracking diverts millions of litres of water from more humanitarian purposes, like drinking or irrigation, and contaminates water and air while decreasing property values. Who’d want to live where the drinking water might contain methane, one of the main constituents of fracked gas? Over the course of a century, methane is thirty-four times more environmentally destructive than carbon dioxide; while in the shorter term (a generation), it’s eighty-six times more harmful.

Panettiere nicely sums the argument. “Fracking is a dirty form of oil drilling that pollutes our air and our oceans. It’s time to move to clean, renewable energy.” In other words: fracking enables our fossil fuel addiction, preventing us from seeking cleaner energy sources.

It must be fun to play a hero in a TV show. But it seems Panettiere finds it even more rewarding to play one in real life.


Images: main: NBC Heroes. Internal: Wikicommons

Jody McCutcheon
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