Her Most Important Role: Daphne Zuniga, Environmentalist

Although she is best known as an actress, having appeared in films including Spaceballs and The Sure Thing and on TV shows including Melrose Place and One Tree Hill, it’s Daphne Zuniga’s role as an environmental activist that is earning her recognition as a recipient of the CLCV Environmental Leadership Award at our gala December 1st.

Zuniga’s love of nature sprung from a childhood spent camping in Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, and helping to build People’s Park in her home town of Berkeley. She was a founding board member of Earth Communications Office (ECO), an organization that harnessed the power of the environmental movement and the entertainment community. In 2009 Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa appointed Daphne to the founding Board of LA River Revitalization Corporation, which strives to improve the quality of life in Los Angeles by sustainably revitalizing the L.A. River corridor.

Zuniga’s personal experience of being diagnosed with mercury poisoning in 2004 speaks volumes about the interconnections between the health of the planet and the health of us all.  As a healthy pescatarian who consumed fish as a primary source of protein, Zuniga was shocked when blood tests revealed twice the “safe” level of mercury in her blood.

Inspired to make a difference, Daphne uses that compelling story to convince others that we must protect the environment in order to also protect public health. She has worked with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Waterkeeper Alliance to get the message out about the toxic chemicals from coal-powered plants and chemical factories ending up in our food chain. Recently, Daphne has focused her activism on environmental justice issues such as the epidemic of childhood asthma in Latino communities.

In an article she wrote for the Huffington Post, Zuniga makes it clear that we all have a responsibility to better understand how our choices as consumers impact the environment and our neighbors:

“The time is now to raise awareness, to make a difference, and to — literally — save people’s lives. Environmental justice is about the people who live next to our power plants, oil refineries, manufacturing plants, incinerators, and waste treatment facilities. It’s about the poor neighborhoods where mountains of empty, hydrofluorocarbon emitting, cargo containers are piled high on residential city blocks… And it’s about the communities near ports like the Port of Los Angeles, Long Beach and others, where hundreds of thousands of ships, trains and diesel trucks travel every day, hauling everything from fruit to furniture to our Toyota Priuses… It’s in these places that childhood asthma is epidemic and lower test scores are the result of deadly toxic fumes children inhale regularly.

By working with communities that may sound far away but aren’t, we will find that our fight against global warming, and civil rights becomes much more effective. Solutions are fortified by our collective power.”

Zuniga was quoted in another interview as saying: “The environment has done nothing but give to us. It deserves to be treated with admiration and respect.” Admiration and respect are what we at CLCV feel for Daphne Zuniga, who demonstrates that one person can truly make a difference when it comes to environmental protection. Daphne will be honored at our Environmental Leadership Awards on December 1 in Los Angeles. We hope you’ll join us for a terrific night of recognizing the dedicated work of Daphne and other California environmental champions!

Posted on November 28, 2011


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