Green Interview: Leilani Munter #Tweet4Taiji
NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A VEGETARIAN HIPPIE CHICK WITH A RACE CAR
Leilani Munter has been named the #1 Eco Athlete in the world by Discovery’s Planet Green, she was a double for actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and is currently the world’s only green NASCAR driver, carrying environmental messages to 75 million race fans. It is her bravery in Taiji, Japan, however, that has touched our hearts. As a spokesperson for Save Japan Dolphins, she is also the star of the latest PSA for The Cove and Ric O’Barry’s Dolphin Project. I am honored to have this opportunity to interview Leilani who is most certainly one of my personal heroes.
Holise: You are a “green” race car driver. Wow! That is so cool. It is wonderful to see you taking such measures for our planet. What precautions do you take in your racing that would differ from other drivers?
Leilani: As a woman in a male dominated sport, I am different to begin with but it is my biology degree and my environmental activism that sets me apart the most from the other drivers. Since 2007 to address the unavoidable emissions of my race car, I have been adopting an acre of rainforest every time I sit in a race car. I promote only green companies on my car and my last race at Daytona I drove the first ever 100% eco sponsored race car, with 6 green companies coming together to get my car on track. If I stopped racing, I would not take a race car off the grid. I would simply lose my ability to talk to 75 million race fans about green living and hopefully win some of them over. As NativeEnergy’s Tom Rawls said of my eco race car “Anyone who is engaged in any broad effort to speak to the public faces this question: Do I talk only to friendly audiences, or do I face the doubters and the hostiles? If we only address those who already agree with us, nothing changes. And if we work only with people who already believe in what we do, who is going to change the minds of those who don’t?”
On a personal level, I have been vegetarian almost my entire life, have a worm farm to compost my food scraps, a veggie garden, a rainwater collection system, I use solar and LEDs in my house. My racing tshirts are made from recycled plastic bottles – for every size large male tshirt, we have pulled 5 plastic bottles out of a landfill. I lobby for clean energy on Capitol Hill, have traveled to the oil spill in the gulf twice, and have been to Taiji three times and spend several weeks there fighting the dolphin slaughter. Never underestimate a vegetarian hippie chick with a race car. :)
Leilani: My next race is on my birthday February 18th at Daytona International Speedway where I will be racing in the ARCA Series in “The Cove” themed race car. The race will air live on SPEED, available in 79 million homes. Last time I ran Daytona we had 100,000 fans in the stands as well. Ric O’Barry and Louie Psihoyos will be joining me at the race and will be signing autographs and giving away 1000 DVDs of The Cove to race fans. This will help us educate a fresh, new audience about dolphin captivity and slaughter. We should not just be speaking to other dolphin activists about this film, if we want to make an impact we have to get this issue in front of mainstream America – people who are buying tickets to dolphin parks. We are still raising funds to make this a reality, but we are getting very close to our goal. Anyone who can help us cross the finish line and get to the race, you can make a tax deductible donation here: http://www.opsociety.org/donate/DaytonaCarDonation.htm
Holise: I remember when you first went to Taiji and how you made headlines worldwide with your covert photographs. My big question is “How do you deal with it?” It must require a special person to do what you have done and not suffer emotional trauma. How did you keep your cool and force yourself to film such an atrocity?
Leilani: It is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. It’s very emotional and stressful to witness this horrific slaughter because every molecule in your body wants to get up and fight the dolphin hunters, which of course would result in being arrested and possible physical consequences. So you are in this constant struggle in your mind, reminding yourself to keep your cool and that the best thing you can do is take photographs and film video to show to the world and remind them that this is still happening. My purpose in being there was to bear witness and make sure that the dolphins were not losing their lives in vain, that they would not be forgotten. I lost 10 lbs on my first trip to Taiji, I came back drained – both physically and emotionally. It took me a long time to recover.
Holise: Excluding the hunters and those who condone the senseless slaughters, what are the people like in that neck of the woods? What are some of your personal experiences with the locals?
Leilani: I found all the locals (that were not working with the dolphin hunters) to be very kind people. I know there are some locals that are given a hard time by others in town for welcoming us into their place of business – whether it be a hotel or a restaurant – but they continue to be kind to us, even though they are being harassed for it. And they are interested in the issue. My last trip I gave out around 50 copies of the Japanese dubbed version of “The Cove” and the people I gave it to were very interested and thankful that I was passing along a copy. I gave it out to people in restaurants, shops, hotel cleaning crews – you name it. We are getting the word out there.
Leilani: If he has a heart, I haven’t seen it. The emotion that I see from him most of the time is anger – whether he is screaming at me or just glaring at me or being sarcastic to me. He definitely has a temper and I have been told by people who know him much better than I do, that you do not want to catch him at the wrong moment. It’s one thing to run into him at the cove and there are cameras and lots of police and activists around. It would be quite another to run into him in a dark alley after he’s been out drinking.
The advice to me was to try to avoid that situation.
Holise: If someone is planning a trip to Taiji, what advice can you offer them?
Leilani: If you are vegetarian or vegan – bring your own food! Like I said earlier, I lost 10 lbs on my first trip to Taiji and that was partly because it was hard to find vegan and vegetarian food. I lived mostly off of hazelnuts. Bring lots of hard drive space for the photos and video you will get. And keep your cool, getting arrested isn’t going to help free the dolphins and is mostly going to effect your life, not the dolphin hunters lives.
Holise: For those of us who cannot go to Japan, what is the best way we can help?
Leilani: I believe the best way to spread the word is to get people to watch The Cove. Many people have not seen it yet. I think we get so used to talking to other dolphin activists on facebook and twitter, we can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a gigantic population out there that has never seen or even heard of “The Cove.” That is why we are racing “The Cove” themed race car at Daytona, to get this issue in front of the number one spectator sport in America.
Leilani’s Journey to Daytona
Leilani’s Environmental Mission
CNN – She’s Racing to Save the Environment
ESPN Highlights – Leilani’s Indy Pro Series Debut
Discovery’s Planet Green – Leilani Named #1 Eco Athlete
- Leilani Münter “Life is short. Race hard. Live green.” (timsweet.wordpress.com)
- Leilani Munter Fundraising for ‘The Cove’ Themed Race Car (ecorazzi.com)
- For the Love of Dolphins (showlovedaily.wordpress.com)
- Dolphin Meat in Taiji… A Killer from the Killers (holisecleveland.wordpress.com)
- Killing Taiji Dolphins is Anything But Painless (holisecleveland.wordpress.com)
- Trial Begins For Dutch Cove Guardian Erwin Vermeulen in Taiji, Japan (climate-connections.org)
- Clowning Around in Taiji Town (cyberwhalewarrior.com)