Linking Arms for Impact
Canvas Magazine (NZ Herald)
15 September 2018
Angela Barnett talks with six Kiwi leaders and luminaries on busting down barriers.
Lucy Lawless (MNZM) is known as much for her Greenpeace work as for her role in And she doesn’t care which title she has: actor or activist. “I’m both. I do the best thing based on whatever’s happening.” Both roles, she says, require empathy.
But breaking rules doesn’t come naturally to Lawless — even if her name is ideal for the role. “I’m not a lawbreaker — quite the opposite. My husband woke up one morning and there was his wife on top of an oil rig on CNN and he thought I was filming Top of the Lake. She admits people don’t like it when she steps out of line. “My family thought I was being a rabble-rouser but they’ve all come around. If you’re a bolshy woman and appear to be breaking the rules, people give you a lot of stick.”
She’s been a supporter of Greenpeace since she was 17 and a climate ambassador since 2009. But Lawless doesn’t just attach her star power to a cause, she gets in the roiling Arctic Ocean in a rubber boat to protest Norwegian drilling or chains herself to ships along with fellow activists. She’s been arrested. She’s completed community time and says she stepped up her activism after being “touched by the reality of climate catastrophe being stuck in Hurricane Katrina”.
While filming in New Orleans they got the “category five — get out” warning. “It was total gridlock; there was no information and there was this thunderhead of the cyclone, like a mushroom cloud, coming at us. The horror of not being able to move made me realise that shit was getting serious. I never wanted my kids to be in that situation.
“Once you’ve been touched by it, you’re duty-bound to do something. We activists try to educate people why catastrophic climate events are happening more frequently and devastatingly. People don’t care. They care about celebrities’ babies but they don’t love the world enough.”
Lawless admits she never realised how much she’s benefited from all the suffragettes’ struggles. “There was a campaign in the 80s, ‘girls can do anything’. I was the first generation who was born into that idea. In my house it was reinforced by my parents’ expectations and to my shame I’ve taken it for granted. I haven’t helped the cause, except to live a certain way.
“I have a daughter and two sons and I don’t want any of them to be left out of any opportunity. A healthy society is when everyone is enfranchised.”