(By Steven Mufson, Washington Post)
Two-time Academy Award and seven-time Golden Globe winner Jane Fonda has played many roles, most recently on television as the wife of a gay husband who comes out about his closeted relationship with his best friend…
But this week, Fonda takes on the role of climate activist and brings it to a new stage: the Capitol, where she will demonstrate until she is arrested. And she will do the same thing for 14 Fridays – until she has to film another season of the television drama "Grace and Frankie."
"I'm going to take my body, which is kind of famous and popular right now because of the [television] series and I'm going to go to D.C. and I'm going to have a rally every Friday," Fonda said in an interview with The Washington Post. "It'll be called 'Fire Drill Friday.' And we're going to engage in civil disobedience and we're going to get arrested every Friday."
Call her the Greta Thunberg of the octogenarian set
The 16-year-old Thunberg, a Swedish high school student, has rocked the world with her blunt denunciations of generations that have failed to slow climate change. The 81-year-old Fonda, who says she was moved reading about Thunberg, says she believes she can have her own impact.
When Thunberg studied climate change, "she realised what was happening and that this was barrelling at us like an engine," Fonda said. "It so traumatised her that she stopped speaking and eating. And when I read that it rocked me, because I knew that Greta had seen the truth. And the urgency came into my DNA the way it hadn't before."
"Greta said we have to behave like it's a crisis," Fonda added. "We have to behave like our houses are on fire."
Fonda has a distinguished acting career, including political films such as "Coming Home" about Vietnam War wounds both mental and physical, "9 to 5" about working women, and "The China Syndrome" about a nuclear power plant that was released shortly before the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
She has history of political activism, too
She supported the Black Panthers and marched for the rights of Native Americans, soldiers and working mothers. In 1970, she went to Fort Meade to hand out anti-war pamphlets to soldiers but was arrested before she was able to. In 1972, she went to North Vietnam and sat on an antiaircraft gun, earning the nickname "Hanoi Jane." She has repeatedly apologised for the photo and to veterans of the war. She has been active on women's issues.
This time Fonda is planning to go about things differently
Every Thursday evening, starting Oct. 17, there will be online teach-ins featuring climate scientists talking about different aspects of global warming. Fonda said she would like to "draw connections" by discussing how violence against women increases in communities suffering from climate change.
Then on Fridays, she will go to the steps of the Capitol building holding a placard and will refuse to obey three requests by the Capitol Police to cease and desist. She's not expecting a mass rally, more like a handful of people.
Actress and activist Jane Fonda talks to a crowd of protestors during a global climate rally at Pershing Square in downtown Los Angeles on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019. A wave of climate change protests swept across the globe Friday, with hundreds of thousands of young people sending a message to leaders headed for a U.N. summit: The warming world can't wait for action. (AP Photo/David Swanson)
This Friday's launch coincides with bigger protests scheduled worldwide
She has invited some of her celebrity friends: Actor Ted Danson of "Cheers" fame, who has become involved in ocean conservation; "The Vagina Monologues" playwright Eve Ensler; and actresses Kyra Sedgwick and Catherine Keener.
She's reached out to leaders of Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement. Ben Cohen, co-founder of Ben ' Jerry's ice cream, will join the demonstrations, which will start at 11 a.m. Fridays on the side of the Capitol facing the Supreme Court.
Fonda said she also intends to make demands
"The number one thing is cutting all funding and permits for new developments for fossil fuel and exports and processing and refining," she said. She said that if efforts go into discouraging demand for oil and gas and coal, "it's not going to do any good" if companies are still developing prospects. "It's not going to make any difference," she said.
Fonda also wants to get out the vote, not only for presidential ballots but also down to local government to make climate policy a litmus test.
People take part during the Climate Strike, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019 in New York. Young people afraid for their futures protested around the globe Friday to implore leaders to tackle climate change, turning out by the hundreds of thousands to insist that the warming world can't wait for action. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)
It's not Fonda's first climate protest
In 2016, she spent Thanksgiving with protesters gathered in an effort to block an oil pipeline through land claimed by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in North Dakota. She has protested in Los Angeles, Vancouver and Seattle.
But she said she wanted to "step it up" after reading two books: Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz's book "People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent" and Naomi Klein's "On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal."
Klein opens her book with an essay about Thunberg and her Asperger's syndrome. Fonda says it showed her that some people on the autism spectrum are "totally laser focused" and "information comes at them pure and direct."
"It's as simple as this. We have according to the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] 12 years, but that was a year ago," Fonda says. "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, by the way."
Vote, speak ' act in support of the demands of youth climate strikers:
🔥A Green New Deal
🔥Respect of Indigenous Land ' Sovereignty
🔥Protection ' Restoration of Biodiversity
🔥Implementation of Sustainable Agriculture#FireDrillFriday #FridaysForFuture pic.twitter.com/VCdrZqTjM5
— Fire Drill Fridays (@FireDrillFriday) October 11, 2019
Fonda drives an electric car and has solar panels on her home. She's getting rid of plastics.
But she says she's "not quite vegan." And unlike Thunberg, who took a sailboat across the Atlantic to avoid using jet fuel, Fonda says she'll fly when she needs to. She has a speaking tour with her television co-star Lily Tomlin that requires taking planes. And she doesn't think climate activists should alienate potential activists who, for example, eat beef.
Does Fonda, who has a three-month old grandson, have a lesson from her earlier participation in political protests? She says, "I feel far braver now than I did before. I've got nothing to lose and this is it."
Fonda will mark her 82nd birthday on a December Friday, and she's planning on celebrating by getting arrested in Washington
Asked whether she could weather partisan attacks from President Donald Trump or others, Fonda said, "You don't see it but I have Armor around me. It's invisible but it's my special power like Greta and her Asperger's. I'm 82 years old. There's nothing they can do. It doesn't matter what they do."