Harrison Ford: There are no great movies on global environmental issues

April 29, 2013, 10:25 PM UTC

FORTUNE — Of course you know Harrison Ford, but did you know that in his spare time, the actor is the vice-chair of non-profit Conservation International? He joined the group, he told audience members Monday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., for a bit of a breather from his Hollywood life.

“I became involved about 25 years ago,” he said. “I suffered an unconscionable excess of resources and was looking for some way to redeem myself morally. [Coming] from the world I normally exist in, to be part of that conversation is really very stimulating for me.”

Ford appeared on stage with Conservation International’s Chairman and CEO Peter Seligmann, who explained that one of the group’s main goals is to help countries attach an economic value to their natural resources. Quantifying the value of these resources, the thinking goes, will make them harder to destroy.

Full transcript of the Harrison Ford-Peter Seligmann talk

For example, Ford explained, the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are currently addressing the threat from Somali pirates attacking ships in the Horn of Africa. Many of the aggressors turned to piracy because the local fisheries collapsed, Ford said. Conservation International wants to help leaders prevent crises like that one by working with leadership in countries to assign economic weight to resources they might not have previously considered, including fisheries or, say, a population of pollinators. The group also argues that preserving them is a matter of national security.

It seems like the struggle against piracy would make a great movie, but Ford says he keeps his two lines of work — international movie star and environmentalist — separate.

“I’m in show business — we’re an entertainment activity,” he said. In the movies, in contrast to reality, “what happens is it’s coopting an issue then presenting a solution to it in two hours with a nice tight bow on it at the end.” As for the complex global environmental issues, “I have yet to read anything that was a great movie.”

That seems about right. After all, if Ford can’t accurately portray the struggles of real-life green superheroes, then probably no one can.

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