Mark Ruffalo is one of hydraulic fracturing’s most high-profile opponents. He also plays the Incredible Hulk in the new Avengers film. You wouldn’t think these two worlds would collide, but Ruffalo made the connection in a recent interview flagged by Slate’s Dave Weigel.
New York-based City and State asked Ruffalo — they really did — whether there are any similarities between the Avengers’ fight against Loki, and Ruffalo’s fight against natural gas drilling. The site also probed Ruffalo for parallels between the Hulk’s gamma ray exposure and possible water contamination caused by fracking. Read the exchange below.
MR: Superheroes have always been the guys that fight for the common good. That’s what I responded to as a kid. They always fought for the little guy. That’s what this fight is about. If the gas industry was just honest about what they do and how they do it, they wouldn’t have such a nightmare on their hands. I am beginning to feel like the only way they can make money is to do it the way they’re doing, to bypass regulations, to lie when contamination happens, to manipulate the markets. Now we’re seeing Aubrey McClendon and Chesapeake and the whole thing of them manipulating the markets, and lying to their investors. If they could do this safely and in a way that was aboveboard, then they would do it. So you have a malicious, malign force out there that’s doing damage and in some way needs to be stopped. And that’s the kind of thing that superheroes come to the rescue to. The superheroes today are my neighbors.
CS: You play the Incredible Hulk, who was created by a freak accident during a bomb test. Does that kind of cautionary tale relate to hydrofracking and its repercussions?
MR: There’s a long line of scientific experiments gone bad in history and in storytelling, and it’s something we go back to all the time. It’s all over the comic books. It’s in our consciousness and our subconscious as a culture. We personify it in our mythologies as superheroes and we live next to it in our lives, such as Fukushima and what’s happening at Dimock. This is a struggle that will continue to go on as we become more desperate for this type of carbon energy. Long gone are the days when we simply stick a straw in the ground and get beautiful concentrated carbon energy percolating to the surface with very little impact to the area around us. Now we’ve entered the era of extreme energy extraction: It’s hydrofracking, it’s deep-sea drilling, it’s mountaintop removal, it’s tar sands. These are the new norm, and they’re incredibly dangerous, incredibly toxic, and they’re accelerating global warming at an unprecedented rate. And that’s what we’re going to be stuck with. Just like the superhero disasters.
Slate’s Weigel adds some context: “Worth noting: In the comics, the gamma bomb explosion that turns Banner into the Hulk is a weapons test. In current Marvel Studios continuity, the Hulkification was the result of a botched Super Soldier experiment. Neither of these experiments were as well-intentioned as that of the frackers.”
Also worth noting: while the contamination of a dozen families’ drinking water in Dimock, Susquehanna County has raised serious questions about methane migration and well casing standards, the township’s struggles are not on par with the Fukushima nuclear disaster.