The actress (and Natural Health's new editor-at-large!) reveals the moment she decided to become a voice for the environment—and easy ways you can get involved, too.
When I was a young girl, I loved the show Little House on the Prairie. I imagined my family as a modern-day Ingalls clan: We looked an awful lot like our TV counterparts and our personalities matched, too.
So, who was I? Was I the smart and beautiful Mary? Nope. Was I the adorable, if obnoxious, Carrie? Nope. I was the double-braided, buck-toothed and stubborn Laura. Braces have since straightened my teeth, but otherwise, not much has changed. I am still Laura Ingalls, in spirit.
Laura was most adamant about one thing: injustice. Nothing could make her see red more than witnessing a big bully picking on the more vulnerable. The only time my mother ever got a call from school about my behavior, I was 11 and I'd crushed a boy's glasses because he was picking on a child with cerebral palsy.
Since then, I've learned to channel my anger over injustice a bit more constructively. As an actor, I will elect to play characters who defend the underdog. As a woman and mother to a young son, I spend a lot of time defending the victims of our modern lifestyle: clean air, clean water, biodiversity and natural living.
I grew up in Canada, in a small town I could ride my bike across at 5 years old. I swam in crystal-clear lakes and drank from creeks. Protecting nature is as much a part of me as my DNA. I do remember, though, a moment when I realized nature needed me to influence others to act.
I was a new mama, and I chose Tim Flannery's The Weather Makers for some light nursing reading. (Yes, that is sarcasm.) The book explained the reality of the climate crisis we're facing, and it broke my heart. As I read, I looked down at my baby's innocent face. I saw in him the potential and also the tragedy of this planet's future. And I knew I had to stand up and try harder, yell louder, release the warrior that has always been inside of me.
From that moment, I've worked to be a voice for the defenseless through powerful organizations such as Sierra Club and DeSmog Canada. I know my son will never live like the Ingalls—or even like I did growing up in pristine, 1980s Canada—but at least when I tuck him in at night, I do it knowing that I am trying. Now, in Fit Pregnancy's sister publication Natural Health, I'll share how you can get involved, too. I hope you'll join me in making a difference.
How to team up with three of Lilly's favorite orgs
- Sierra Club: The environmental organization's 64 chapters throughout the U.S. help protect millions of acres of wilderness. Find a local clean-up outing or take a volunteer vacation to mix work and play. sierraclub.org
- Oxfam International: Over 90 countries work together to end poverty and hunger worldwide. Raise funds through hosting a dinner party, or join the Oxfam Action Corps to help plan major events. oxfam.org
- 350.org: This environmental network, active in 188 countries, is on a mission to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to slow the rate of global warming. Start your own petition campaign or join a local rally. 350.org