Dede's Green Scene: Jane Fonda Getting Arrested for Climate Change! by Dede Tabak, January 29 2020, 0 Comments

Courtesy of David Fenton,

All Photos Courtesy of David Fenton,

The legendary actress Jane Fonda has two Academy Awards and seven Golden Globes listed under her accomplishments, but she’s now fighting for her most important role yet, the one for which she would like to be remembered—Jane Fonda: climate change activist. In October 2019, Fonda moved to Washington D.C. to partner with Greenpeace and lead the “Fire Drill Fridays” movement. These weekly sit-ins at the Hart Senate office protest our government's reluctance to move away from fossil fuels and embrace the Green New Deal. Fire Drill Fridays call for the current administration to pass the Green New Deal, the rightful respect for indigenous land and indigenous sovereignty, justice for those displaced by the climate crisis, protection and restoration of biodiversity, and a commitment to sustainable agricultural practices.

Jane Fonda is no stranger to activism. In the 1960s, she supported the Civil Rights Movement and is famously known for being in opposition to the Vietnam War. She protested with Native Americans about the right to their land in Fort Lawton in 1970 and with Standing Rock in 2016. She has protested for women’s rights over the years, spoke at the Women’s March in 2017, and co-founded the Women’s Media Center in 2005 with Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan to advance the representation of women and girls in all forms of media. Fonda has continued to use her celebrity status to raise awareness of important issues of our time, but it was Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, who inspired Fonda to take it a step further.

In her speech to last year’s World Economic Forum, Thunberg called adults to action:

“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don't want your hope; I don't want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic; I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act; I want you to act as if you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if the house was on fire, because it is.”

Fonda vowed to join the Friday school strikes movement that Greta Thunberg inspired and so she created Fire Drill Fridays back in October.

Every Friday, Fonda led a group of celebrities, scientists, economists and community members who are directly impacted by climate change to speak, protest and possibly be arrested for civil disobedience. Fonda herself was arrested five times (even spending a night in jail), and she said she was happy to do it if it raised awareness of this crisis. She readily pointed to her unique position of privilege for getting attention, being a white, famous celebrity.

The last Fire Drill Friday in DC took place on January 10, 2020, where Fonda was joined by Joaquin Phoenix, Susan Sarandon and Martin Sheen. Fonda hoped to lead the sit-ins throughout 2020, but she was contractually obligated to go back to Los Angeles and film the last season of her Netflix hit, Gracie and Frankie. She will continue the movement while she films the show in Los Angeles though.

In conjunction with Fire Drill Fridays, you can watch a number of hosted teach-in sessions that were live-streamed every Thursday, addressing  different topics around climate change.

“It’s as simple as this,” Fonda told the Washington Post. “We have, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 12 years, but that was a year ago. So according to their report, we have 11 years left. Eleven years to do something that has never been done in human history. And if we don’t do it, huge parts of the planet are going to be uninhabitable.”

Courtesy of David Fenton, fenton.comFonda had to hit pause on being arrested after her fourth time, at least for a few weeks, since she faced serious jail time. But she invited other celebrities to join in the Fire Drill Fridays, some of whom were also arrested.The list includes Sam Waterson, Sally Fields Lily Tomlin, Ted Danson (who is on the board of Oceana), Catherine Kenner, Rosanna Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick and more. Fonda hoped that star power would help bring attention to this desperate crisis and get others to join. In late 2019, she even accepted a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Britannia award while being arrested, which went viral. 

It doesn’t just stop at protesting either. Fonda doesn’t want to just talk the talk, but walk the walk as well. To reduce her own personal impact on the environment, she drives an electric car, has decreased her air travel, eats less meat and fish and has eliminated single-use plastic. She has said that the now-infamous red coat she wore during Fire Drill Fridays will be the last piece of clothing she will ever buy, as an example to stop the wasteful habit of buying things we don’t need.

Although these individual changes are important, it’s not enough to make the impact we need to save us from the climate crisis. We need to completely move away from fossil fuels, and quickly.

In a 1970 interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Fonda provided thoughts that still resonate in the world today and as part of her character:

“Any healthy country, like any healthy individual, should be in perpetual revolution, perpetual change. If you don't know that something is wrong, or that a problem exists, then you're kind of forgiven because you're innocent, and ignorance is comfortable, safe,” Fonda said. However, “once you know, if you turn away and go appropriately, then you're part of the problem. And I don't want to die being part of the problem.”

Fire Drill Fridays called on all Americans to vote, speak and act in support of the demands aligned with those of the youth-led climate strikers. For more information and the next stage of this movement, check out Fire Drill Fridays' website.