Commentary: is Begley changing colors? The green star finds some love in the red states.

Author:Richman, Alan
Position:COMMENTARY - Ed Begley Jr.
 
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What's this? Liberal, tree-hugging, famously blond Ed Begley, Jr. praising a conservative Republican, acknowledging that pollution can't always be avoided, and sporting dark brown hair? Has the star--along with his wife Rachelle Carson--of HGTV's Living With Ed changed his colors from the green of the environmental movement? Don't count on it.

True, Begley, whose most prominent acting role was as Dr. Victor Ehrlich on St. Elsewhere, did say these things recently, and in public. And no, he was not performing in a fictional play or film when he made the remarks attributed to him. He delivered them as keynote speaker at the Healthy Harvest trade show, held October 27 to 28 at the Long Beach (CA) Convention Center, and he meant them. But there is an explanation.

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First, the hair. He'd had it dyed for a role in an upcoming HBO program. Second, the conservative Republican was his father, also a distinguished actor, who, Begley said, really appreciated the idea that conservatives should conserve, particularly when natural resources were at stake. Finally, the notion that pollution cannot be eliminated altogether: Begley noted that even the manufacture of a solar panel generates some pollution, but added that it is "so much less over the 50-year life of that panel," that it is a clear choice over burning fossil fuels.

Even though his audience was made up mostly of natural products manufacturers and retailers--in other words, people who could be counted as sympathetic to environmental sustainability--Begley tempered his message. Instead of coming on like the wild-eyed extremist his foes sometimes make him out to be, the speaker chose a "kinder, gentler" approach, to borrow a Republican catchphrase. In fact, he was sincere in his praise of how far we have come, giving it almost equal weight to how far we still must go.

Begley explained that two factors were responsible for sparking his interest in environmental concerns. The first was his involvement in the Boy Scouts, which helped him develop a love and respect for the outdoors. The second--an influence from the "dark side"--was his concern about smog levels, which, bad as they are now, were far worse in the 1950s and 1960s, when he was growing up in southern California. "I could stand in my yard and look in one direction and see the mountains," he recalled. "And then I would turn around, and all I saw was a thick wall of orange smoke. In those days, almost every house had a...

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