Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Harrison Ford: Why environmental activist is the star actor's most important role

The 'Indiana Jones' star is coming to Dubai's World Government Summit this week to speak about climate change

Harrison Ford will speak on ocean conservation at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Tuesday. Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP File
Harrison Ford will speak on ocean conservation at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Tuesday. Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP File

He's immortalised the characters of Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan on screen, but Harrison Ford's most long-standing part might just be that of activist.

The actor, 76, has been campaigning for myriad causes since the early '90s, championing environmentalism, sustainability and archaeology, among other issues. The Air Force One star is perhaps most passionate about the issue of climate change, a topic he will explore on-stage this week as part of the World Government Summit in Dubai.

Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in 'Star Wars'. Courtesy 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation; AP Photo
Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill in 'Star Wars'. Courtesy 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation / AP

Ford will speak at the Future of Our Oceans plenary session on Tuesday, February 12, where he will deliver a 20-minute address on marine conservation to audiences. Ahead of his appearance, the trained pilot released an impassioned video, revealing that climate change presents "the greatest moral challenge of our time".

“Fresh water shortages, higher greenhouse gas emissions, unprecedented fires, worldwide destruction. Is this the world we want?" he asked. “Our planet, the only home we’ve got, is suffering. This is the bare truth. This is our reality. It’s up to you and me to act, now.”

Below, ahead of his talk, we explore the causes closest to Ford's heart.

Conservation

The actor's work in protecting planet Earth's natural resources dates back more than 25 years, with Ford joining Conservation International's board of directors as vice-chair in 1991.

The American non-profit is dedicated to conserving food and water sources, livelihoods and a stable climate, and has helped protect more than 601 million hectares of land, marine and coastal areas, according to its website.

"I suffered an unconscionable excess of resources and was looking for some way to redeem myself morally," Ford told a Fortune conference in 2013 of becoming involved with the organisation. "[Coming] from the world I normally exist in, to be part of that conversation is really very stimulating for me."

The actor has also fronted campaigns for EarthShare, an environmental network that brings together hundreds of America’s conservation organisations, and volunteered with Riverkeeper, flying his personal helicopter over the Hudson River to identify and prevent water polluters.

Ford also donated more than 350 acres of his own property in Wyoming to the Jackson Hole Land Trust, for use as a reserve.

His numerous accolades include the Jules Verne Spirit of Nature Award, the World Ecology Award from the International Center for Tropical Ecology, and the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Harvard Medical School, among many others.

Climate change

As part of his work with various conservation societies and organisations, Ford has spoken out about the threat of climate change on multiple occasions.

In 2018, the veteran actor spoke at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, where he urged voters in the US to support politicians that recognised the dangers ahead. "Stop giving power to people who don't believe in science, or worse than that, pretend they don't believe in science for their own self-interest," he told guests.

While accepting the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Patron of the Artists Awards last November, Ford revealed he does hold hope for the globe's future, particularly thanks to the younger generation. “Young people around the world recognize the need and are committed to meeting the challenge," he said during his acceptance speech. "They’re curious, they’re innovative, they’re more educated than ever before, they’re demanding solutions. They’re going for it. They’re all in. That gives me hope."

In 2014, Ford appeared as the first guest presenter on Years of Living Dangerously, a documentary series that interviews people affected by, and those seeking solutions to, global warming.

Archaeology

He played legendary archaeologist Indiana Jones on screen, and the actor has also shown an interest in the field behind the scenes. Ford was elected on to the board of directors of the Archaeological Institute of America in 2008, and still acts as a general trustee of the institute, which advocates for the preservation of historically important sites, today.

Updated: February 10, 2019 03:00 PM

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