US racing car driver Leilani Münter has become Population Matters’ newest patron. Combining her career driving very fast cars with untiring environmental activism, Leilani is a passionate supporter of the population cause. Describing herself as a “vegan hippy chick in a race car”, Leilani Münter joins a distinguished list of patrons, including Sir David Attenborough and Dame Jane Goodall.
Leilani’s given us this exclusive interview, talking about her racing, her activism and her family. We’re delighted to have her on board.
How did you become a racing driver?
While I was studying biology at the University of California in San Diego, I got into a race car and got hooked on the adrenaline. There’s nothing quite like a pack of race cars going into a corner at 200 mph just inches from each other. The mental focus required is incredible.
Why do you think you care about the environment so much?
I grew up with a love of nature and went on to earn a degree in biology specializing in ecology, behavior and evolution. Our generation is facing the greatest problems our species has ever seen and the future of our planet, our species and all the species we share it with depends on us
adapting and changing the way we are live on this planet to a sustainable existence that does not destroy the world around us.
What are the environmental problems we face that worry you the most?
Human population worries me the most. Climate change, ocean acidification, species extinction, loss of biodiversity – all of these are due to human impact on the planet – overpopulation compounds every single one of them. Technology can help us reduce our impact: electric cars, solar power, plant-based diets, green buildings, bring it all on! But if we do not address the main factor here – population – we are ignoring the root cause of all these other issues.
How do you combine activism with racing?
I use my platform as a driver to encourage change as much as I can, I use my race cars as a 200mph billboard to promote shifts in our behavior, to inspire race fans to rethink their day-to-day habits for our planet. I don’t work with any companies that produce any sort of fossil fuels: no oil, no coal, no natural gas, no companies that produce any meat or dairy products, fur or leather, and no companies that test on animals. My racecars have promoted a future with 100% renewable energy, solar power, wind power, recycled products, two award winning documentary films: The Cove and Blackfish, and last year and this year my race car is promoting the vegan lifestyle (a far more sustainable way to feed the planet) and we are giving away thousands of samples of vegan food to race fans.
I also have been adopting an acre of rainforest for every race I run in order to offset the carbon footprint of my race car. I do everything I can to reduce my footprint and lead by example: I drive my electric Tesla to all my races, my house and personal car are powered by the solar panels on the roof of my home, I am vegan, have a vegetable garden, a 550 gallon rainwater collection system, and most importantly, my husband and I are child-free.
What triggered your interest in population?
One day when I was studying at the University of California in San Diego, my biochemistry professor told us to close our books and he showed our class a film about population. I remember being just devastated and walking across the college campus with him after class talking about it. That day I decided I was not having children and I have been quietly worried about human population ever since. Over the past few years I have become more and more vocal on population because I feel that it is one of the most important issues we face and it is not being talked about nearly enough. It’s the big white elephant in the room and it’s time to speak up and have those uncomfortable conversations.
What do you think about having a family?
I have chosen to not contribute to population growth and I am happily child-free. The only babies in our house have four legs. My husband and I had this discussion early on when we were dating. I wish more people would look at the bigger picture and make the same decision. It is simple math, it is not hard to understand: this is not sustainable. If we don’t change our ways, humans are on a path to extinction.
Why have you become a patron of Population Matters?
I am honored to become a patron of Population Matters, they have been doing incredible work in this space since 1991. It is incredibly important to tell the population story and I look forward to working with the experts in this field to bring this story to the world. The ultimate intelligence of our species will be determined by whether we face our population issue and get it under control, or continue to sweep it under the rug because it’s an uncomfortable conversation. The future of life on Earth depends on us doing the former.