Active demonstrations supplement individual lifestyle changes in making strides towards combating climate change, according to actress and activist Jane Fonda at a Jan. 7 event.
The event, titled “This is Not a Drill: A Discussion with Jane Fonda on Climate Change,” was hosted by the Georgetown Environment Initiative and the Kalmanovitz Initiative on Labor and the Working Poor, a research group that develops policy and strategies to improve American workers’ lives. The dialogue was led by Director of the Georgetown Environment Initiative Peter Marra.
While reducing meat and fish consumption or buying an electric car are important steps toward alleviating the effects of climate change, individuals need to think bigger when it comes to combating such a time sensitive issue, according to Fonda.
“It’s a good place to start, but it’s not the place to stop,” Fonda said. “Our individual lifestyle choices can’t be scaled up in time. Time is the issue. We only have 10 years to do something that is probably the biggest challenge that humans have ever faced.”
Fonda, a longtime climate activist, moved to Washington, D.C., and created Fire Drill Fridays, a weekly march on Capitol Hill in which she and other demonstrators engage in protests and acts of civil disobedience to fight for climate justice.
Fonda found inspiration for Fire Drill Fridays after reading Naomi Klein’s “On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal.” The book specifically referenced teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and other youth climate activists, all of whom served as further inspiration for Fonda’s move to D.C. and creation of the weekly protests, she said.
“I said, ‘I’m gonna move. Greta says get out of your comfort zone, so I’m moving to D.C.,’” Fonda said. “‘I’m gonna camp out in front of the White House for a year.’”
Fonda said Fire Drill Fridays were her way of joining youth strikers in demonstrating against climate change.
“The young student activists here in D.C. agreed that they would share their Friday protests with me, and so that’s what got me here,” Fonda said. “I’m very very moved by what’s happened.”
Since the first Fire Drill Friday in October 2019, turnout at the protests has increased. Around 500 protestors attended the most recent Fire Drill Friday on Jan. 10, which was Fonda’s final climate rally in D.C. before moving back to California.
While the movement hopes to enact widespread change, specific areas of focus include advocating for the regulation of the fossil fuel industry and the Green New Deal, a congressional resolution to address climate change, Fonda said.
“At Fire Drill Fridays, we talk about the Green New Deal, but then we add on no fossil fuel expansion and phase out of existing fossil fuels with a just transition for the workers. Those are the main demands,” Fonda said. “We can have all the windmills and solar collectors in the world, and if they keep drilling and fracking and refining and turning stuff into plastic and everything, we’re never gonna solve the problem.”
Fonda’s activist experience is not limited to climate justice. She was a vocal opponent to the Vietnam War in the 1970s and has continued to be outspoken on other issues including women’s rights and Native American rights. In 2017, Fonda came to campus to speak about unfair labor practices within the services industry.
Activism not only helps stress the urgency of an issue, but also helps to mobilize more people to join in the push for change, Fonda said.
“Activism, and the kind of things we’ve been doing with Fire Drill Fridays, is creating community,” Fonda said. “We have to fight for community in the sense that we are interdependent, that we have to stick together, that it’s gonna take all of us, so I highly advocate activism.”