LIVING Formerly bearing an address at Melrose Place, Daphne Zuniga is a tireless campaigner for our planet and our fellow citizens
Originally published in issue 10 of Lucire , September 2005
Last year, I read Crimes Against Nature by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr and learned an alarming thing: one out of six women have high amounts of mercury in their womb and that children are being born neurologically affected by these high levels of mercury. Mercury damages the brain, central nervous system and other organs. I loved tuna salad and sushi! The heavy metal test taken by my doctor revealed I had twice the “safe” level of mercury in my body.
I would love people to get tested, then write or call their political representatives demanding stricter mercury rules on all coal-powered plants and chlorine plants. These plants are all over the world and this highly toxic pollution has reached all corners.
If you eat a lot of fish: tuna and swordfish are known to be high in mercury. Get tested either with a heavy metal blood test at your doctor’s office or a hair sample. If high, cut back on fish (I have completely stopped for now) and start a chelation therapy detox with doctor, nutritionist, or kineisiologist supervision. They may talk about DMSA, DMPS, chlorella, all of which helped my levels go down.
I have been involved through the years, but recently I after learning of this presidential administration’s policies I immediately got involved in some very effective environmental organizations. Natural Resources Defense Council (nrdc.org), waterkeeper.org, gotmercury.org, oceana.org—these are ones I support; there are plenty more!
Every summer when I was little, my father used to take my sister and I down to Guatemala to visit his family. My uncle and many cousins live there. It is a place of family connection and adventure for me. Guatemala, being a third-world country, is raw and in your face. Its landscapes are mesmerizing, its air is thick and invasive. The sounds of the jungle can be louder than a neighbour’s lawn-mower, and the stillness of Lake Atitlan at dusk creeps into your bones if you let it, and you feel finally home. All of this country’s wounds and vulnerabilities are open, there for you to see and deal with. It’s hard being there because of the poverty and yet it feels familiar because there is a lack of complexity and rules that come with our high-tech, “civilized” life which often leave me aching.
I have always loved travelling, so filming away from my home is fine for me. And when you film on location you don’t have to worry about a lot of other life stuff, so it’s easier: go to work, film, go home, sleep, learn lines, etc. And the cast and crew seem to get closer in another location, which I love. However, I can’t wait to go home to southern California, rollerblade next to the Pacific Ocean, and hike with my dog!
The first famous person I met was Rue McClanahan. I was 14 and asked for her autograph and told her, ‘We watch Maude all the time.’ I already was taking acting classes but a real TV star right there in the deli pretty much made my year.
When one is at a red-carpet event questions are asked by the press, a few recent questions I was asked were: what kind of underwear do you wear? How do you stay in shape? What is your new favourite lipstick? These are very common questions to be asked. It is sad to me that this is enough for them. I guarantee that these are the least interesting topics about the famous and successful people I know. What a shame.
I am able to connect with people, mainly because I like people! And that fact that I have been in therapy over 10 years and because I know we all go through the same stuff, I have compassion.
In the field of acting, a person grows and evolves in the public eye. This is hugely yucky. Most of us would prefer to perfect ourselves, make sure are likeable enough, then get famous. I admire anyone who can continue to be true to themselves, stumble, get up and keep aiming for truth. I admire Jane Fonda for this. I admire Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta for turning their lives into the pursuit of justice for the farm workers who tend to the food in the fields that we get in the store and take for granted. I admire my meditation teachers who live by the dharma and can sit in silence for like ever! I admire Meryl Streep for being so honest and brilliant and for giving me something to reach for in myself when I work.
When people, each of us, one by one, in very tiny moment by moments make life-supporting choices, we as a collective will create more life and less death and suffering. It’s mathematics. I get tired even thinking of all that I should do to save the world from these horrific acts made against the planet. It just makes me want to crawl into bed with a teddy bear and chocolate ice-cream. I don’t have to save the world. I also can’t, so that’s convenient. I do have events in my life constantly that require a choice from me. I simply try to make the one that will be the better one.
Take the plastic to recycling, forward another email for nrdc.org, go to Washington, DC with NoMercury.org, go on the radio and talk about sex and mercury, write an email to congress person, call their assistant (they love to hear from us!), take a nap, go to yoga, stop smoking, talk to someone I don’t think I like, smile, make sure my dad knows I love him … again, don’t waste anymore time with the guy who doesn’t love me. Whatever it is, all of our actions either make us feel more alive or more dead.
Being active means being awake to some painful facts, but it also allows us to feel effective and alive and connected and these are the miracles of life. There are no “grown ups” out there that are going to fix things for us, like I thought. They would have kept mercury from my bloodstream. We are them. Step by step, choice by choice, we each are so beautiful and so alive.
I have no idea what I’d be if I weren’t an actress—most likely unhappy with a nagging notion I should have gone into acting. •
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