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Photography: Pedro Virgil
Alexandra Paul may spend plenty of time behind the camera, producing eco-themed documentaries such as Jam Packed and The Cost of Cool, but the former Baywatch co-star’s acting career continues to purr along. In the fall, she stars in FireQuake for the SyFy channel: “I play a scientist who has invented a clean energy source, but the big bad company that owns the patent misuses it, and all hell breaks loose,” she says. Here, we talk to Paul about her advocacy of healthful, ecologically mindful living.
You’re producing a thriller, Valerie X, based on PETA Executive Director Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book about the pseudonymous founder of the Animal Liberation Front. What attracted you to the project?
My partners, Nik Tyler and Mikko Alanne, and I have all been working in Hollywood for a long time. We understand the power of television and film to inspire and educate billions of people, and we believe that an exciting, mainstream movie about the founding of the ALF will open the hearts of conventional audiences to the innate rights of animals. Like the movies Norma Rae and Erin Brockovitch, Valerie X tells the story of an ordinary person who transforms into an extraordinary heroine. Valerie X is a very exciting thriller, but if we can also change the way people treat animals and how they regard activists, that would be awesome.
You participated in the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? and have been a spokesperson for the Chevy Volt. What’s the progress on making electric vehicles more affordable?
The cost of fueling an electric car is already affordable: I pay $1.50 in electricity for my Volt to go 45 miles, which is about 6 times cheaper than the average American driver pays for gasoline (Americans spend about $1,500 a year on gasoline). The cost of purchasing an electric car is generally more than its gasoline counterpart, and of course the Tesla Model S is expensive, but the consensus among the most mainstream of car aficionados is that the S is one of the most amazing vehicles on the road. Many folks lease their EVs for less than what they were paying for gasoline every month—the leases are as low as $250, and even less. Used Volts and Leafs now go for under $15,000. The Model 3 Tesla is supposed to come out in 2017 at a price of $35,000. The average cost of a gasoline car purchased in the United States is $30,400, which is more than you will pay for several EV models.
I’m always surprised when people driving pricey cars challenge me on the cost of electric cars. They want to know when an EV will “make their money back.” I wonder if they asked themselves that when they got their SUV, BMW, whatever. The price of battery electric vehicles will come down when people who can afford them buy them.
You speak a lot about the issue of human overpopulation.
Yes, as an environmentalist I believe that unless we deal with the issue of human overpopulation we cannot solve any ecological problem. In my lifetime the human population has more than doubled, from 3 billion to over 7 billion people. So many people and too few resources will mean more wars over water, food and land. I did a TEDx talk and speak on the topic in schools and to groups, and I offer solutions on how we can stabilize and then lower our numbers in ways that are beneficial to all men, women, and children. Unfortunately, most non-profits will not discuss the topic because it has become needlessly controversial, but I do not have any donors so I do not worry about that. My focus for the second half of my life is to stop animal testing and lower our human numbers to 2 billion happy people on the planet. Those goals are not too lofty, are they?
You’ve blogged about how going vegan helped you overcome bulimia. What was key for you?
I stopped bingeing and purging when I was 28. What remained was an unease around food, a fear in the back of my head that my appetite will get out of control. I think a lot of woman—maybe men too—feel this way. We are constantly surrounded by unnaturally high quantities of addictive substances like sugar, salt, and fat, so it is no wonder a lot of us have a hard time eating normally! We use these foods as drugs to soothe, distract, or reward ourselves. I have been an ethical vegetarian since I was 14, but when I became a vegan four years ago my strong feelings about animals and the sanctity of their wellbeing became way more important than Alexandra and her hang-ups about food. I was really surprised that the non-vegan sweets I used to crave when I felt bad were easy to avoid when I connected them with animal suffering. It is like my heart opened and I got more balanced.
You’ve competed in the World Ironman Triathlon Championship. What’s up next for you as an athlete?
I’ve just started training for a 13.6-mile swim in Mexico this November. It will be a personal challenge because I will be swimming in the dark for several hours, and I have always been scared of being in the ocean at night! But participating in these longer swims is one way I can show how healthy, strong, and fit vegans can be, and that will keep me going.