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Mark Ruffalo at home in Callicoon

Mark Ruffalo: Callicoon is home worth fighting for

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — November 12, 2010 — You may have seen him in movies like “The Kids Are All Right,” “Shutter Island,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” and “Date Night.”
Or you may have just seen him around town.
Rising actor Mark Ruffalo gladly calls Callicoon home – he’s been living in Sullivan County for the past 15 years, in fact.
“No matter where I was in the world, this is what I called my home,” he explained in his first interview with the Democrat this week. “This has been a fine community with a balance between the locals and the newcomers that I always found embracing. People in this community are good people, and I think the place has held together well.
“Here, I am no better and no worse than the next guy. It makes no difference if I am an actor or not. I appreciate that kind of respect. It is the respect that one earns by the quality of person they are, not what they do for a living. That is rare today.”
But Ruffalo has become more than the guy you meet in the supermarket or post office. His passion for the area has led him to become the very public face of the movement to slow, if not halt, the eastward march of gas drilling.
In the process, he’s made friends and enemies – and given up the kind of privacy treasured by other actors and similarly accomplished professionals who find respite in the county’s woods and fields.
“Honestly, I would rather be working or spending as much time with my family as possible,” he admitted.
But right now, he feels an overriding need to divvy up that precious free time between family and community.
“What I am seeing happening in the U.S. is an onslaught of out-of-state corporations that wreak havoc on the land, tell us they have our best interests in mind, then leave the people holding the bag of social and environmental ruin,” Ruffalo related.
“We are getting more and more desperate with our energy sources, so the way we extract them are more and more desperate, thus the Gulf spill,” he lamented. “Unfortunately at this moment in time, politicians are either bought off or held at gunpoint, so they are ineffective at informing and protecting the public.
“I sadly and fortunately have a voice that can travel a little further and garner a little more attention. Plus, it is the right thing to do. I care about this community. I care about the children. I care about the character of the place.”
Ruffalo has spent time in many parts of the country, and he said the value of clean water is taken for granted locally.
“In California, they can only turn on their sprinklers for 15 minutes per week or pay a $500 fine. They pay as much or more for bottled water than they do for gasoline,” he recalled. “The Great Plains are drying out. The Colorado River is disappearing. People here don’t know what a huge commodity their clean water is.”
One group that does realize that fact, he said, is Catskill Citizens for Safe Energy (CCSE).
“CCSE is deeply involved in my immediate community,” Ruffalo explained. “They have always had a very even-handed approach to this delicate issue and have always been responsible in the way they get their information out. They have also been very successful in rooting out some of the corruption on town and state levels.”
That’s why he’s part of a fundraiser for CCSE tomorrow (see sidebar on front page).
“The difference between the people trying to educate the community about the dangers of gas drilling and the drill-here-and-drill-now groups is that we lack the huge amounts of money that the industry is funneling into taking advantage of our community and citizens,” explained Ruffalo. “Because of our grassroots movement, we have to go out and raise money amongst our members.
“I am hoping that we can raise enough money to continue this mean-and-lean enterprise another year,” he added. “It’s also great to celebrate the hard work we have all been doing. If nothing else, the groups that have been putting their time and energy into protecting the common good are decent, kind people and worth hanging out with.”
But he acknowledged that there are other residents who may sincerely disagree with his and CCSE’s stance on drilling, sometimes strenuously.
“I don’t fault anyone for wanting to make a living,” he affirmed. “I just hope they understand that they shouldn’t have to make a killing (to so many of our assets) to do it.”

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