Oceana Magazine Fall 2011: Q&A: Diane Lane

Diane Lane is best known for her roles in films like “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Secretariat,” but she’s also a passionate supporter of Oceana’s mission. In 2011, she and her husband, Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin, were special guests at Oceana’s SeaChange Summer Party. She spoke with Oceana about her love for the oceans.

What inspired you to support ocean conservation?

I’ve been a supporter of Oceana’s for several years, but it was reading the book “Oceana: Our Endangered Oceans and What We Can Do to Save Them,” by Ted Danson, that brought me to a new level of awareness. It’s a life-changing read. The scales fell from my eyes, and it hurt. The truth is so scary that it can produce a sense of panic. And yet I am grateful for that because it motivates change, and we need lots of that. Each chapter ends with a list of actions we all can and must take. The book deserves an award for its thoroughness.

Did the actions offered in the book help you combat your feelings of panic?

As Ted so eloquently once said in an interview, “If you are not an optimist, then you are a pain in the ass, and get out of  the way.” I agree. I joined Oceana becauseI was inspired to fight back against apathy and feeling overwhelmed. I am energized and hopeful, despite the odds, because we have awakened from our sleep and denial about our planet’s predicament.

Did you grow up near the ocean?

I grew up in New York City, and my urban refuge was Jones Beach. Jumping in those waves are my happiest memories of childhood. In my fantasy life I am a surfer and related to Jacques Cousteau! But when I go back home I still take comfort in the familiar smell of the East River. I’d heard stories of how fish used to be so plentiful in my hometown’s harbor that the surface of the water was roiling with them. Not in my lifetime. Where there used to be fertility, there is now a manmade barrenness. I understood by age 10 that as an adult I, and my generation, would be facing a doomsday scenario of overpopulation and our own thoughtlessness.

What do you think are the greatest threats facing the ocean?

The list of our sins against the ocean is long. It includes overfishing, our addiction to oil and its poisonous “accidents,” rapacious bottom trawling which is not fishing at all, but plundering, our collective garbage swept under the rug, government subsidies of fishing, and flouting of the laws under “flags of convenience.” If we fail to save the oceans from ourselves, it would be a defeat on a scale that makes me shudder. It touches us all eventually, from our health to our economy to our soul.

Do you feel hopeful about the future of the oceans?

Yes. Oceana is where I turn for leadership in the changes that must be made to save our oceans. But it is up to us to be proactive, ambitious and far-reaching in demanding changes in policies, lobbying for tougher laws and making fishing equipment safer, and enforcing these changes with some teeth.

I want to learn more about such hopeful things as land-based, clean, local, sustainable aquaculture. Who knows? I may even pursue becoming a lobbyist, a voice for the oceans in powerful rooms. The oceans need a voice, a guardian, an advocate, a soldier, a parent, a nurse. I want to help.