Last fall, we reported that Jane Fonda—whose career has stretched from Barefoot in the Park to NextTribe fave Grace and Frankie (with a fitness empire thrown in, too)—had been arrested during a climate change protest at the United States Capitol. That was just the start of something bigger.
On October 11, she launched Fire Drill Fridays, an event she continued for four months, with a rotating cast of other stars and concerned citizens. She was arrested five times, and was concerned whether the plastic zip ties used to handcuff protesters were recycled.
Her experience has culminated in a new book, What Can I Do?: My Path from Climate Despair to Action.
A Long History of Speaking Out
Fonda, 82, is no stranger to activism. Her objections to the Vietnam War earned her the moniker “Hanoi Jane” and made her a flashpoint for the debate about the U.S.’s role in the conflict. She supported the Black Panthers, as well. In both cases, she earned praise and criticism for her activism.
Fonda was inspired to start her Fire Drill Fridays by the young climate change striker Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in an emissions-free yacht, and by Naomi Klein’s bestselling book, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal. The Green New Deal is a program that demands a net-zero carbon economy in America by 2050.
“I’d been depressed last year,” she said in and interview with WBUR radio, “because even though I made a lot of personal lifestyle type changes, you know, electric car, no more single-use plastics and so forth, I knew that I wasn’t doing enough and I just didn’t know what to do.”
A Handbook We Can All Use
Fonda says that the experience in Washington D.C. changed her life. “I didn’t think that could happen—at my age—but it did,” she says. The book is written as a guide for others who feel similar despair and want practical, doable ideas to move forward. “Everything I learned and what you need to know about the climate crisis is [in the book] from the mouths of experts and the too-often-unheard voices at the frontlines of the crisis, with stories and ideas that will change the way you think.”
Says Fonda, “The same toxic ideology that took this land from people who already lived here, that kidnapped people from Africa … cut down the forests and exhausted the natural world just as it did the people—this foundational ideology is the same one that has brought us the human-driven climate change that we’re facing today.”
We’re once again amazed by this woman’s energy and the example she sets for exercising freedom of speech and taking action.
A version of this story was published in October 2019.