Jane Fonda Talks Virtual Climate Change Protests, Shifting Views on Activism

Jane Fonda speaks during Jane Fonda's Fire Drill Friday at Los Angeles City Hall on February 07, 2020 - Getty - H 2020
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“We've been doing it now for six months, and last Friday we had 750,000 people following us across all platforms,” Fonda said of her latest virtual Fire Drill Friday.

After months of in-person protests in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., which included five arrests, as part of her “Fire Drill Fridays” campaign, Jane Fonda says the movement has built an “unbelievable” following of millions in the months since it went virtual.

While appearing Tuesday night on Late Night With Seth Meyers to talk about her new book, What Can I Do?: My Path From Climate Despair to Action, the actress and long-time activist shared that despite moving her weekly calls to action online, the support has only gotten bigger.

“It's been unbelievable,” Fonda told Meyers. “We've been doing it now for six months, and last Friday we had 750,000 people following us across all platforms. July and August we had about three and a half million people.”

Fire Drill Fridays is the climate activism movement that was launched by the actress and Greenpeace last fall, bringing hundreds of protestors to Capitol Hill for weekly protests lobbying for progressive environmental legislation. Fonda was arrested five times while participating before the movement shifted to a more nationwide approach in 2020, with the Hollywood star hosting the event monthly in Los Angeles instead of weekly in D.C. due to her Grace and Frankie filming schedule.

The events quickly garnered social media attention for featuring a number of Fonda’s celebrity friends and prominent environmental activists. Future plans for the Fire Drill Friday movement were to tour the country in the lead up to the 2020 election, but due to the pandemic, the movement pivoted to virtual gatherings. Fonda said that despite the shift to online actions, Fire Drill Fridays has been able to stick to its 2020 election mission thanks to thousands of volunteers.

“Tens of thousands have signed up and are volunteering to register voters and get people to vote, to get out the vote,” Fonda said. “Spanish speaking volunteers work with the Latino community, and it's just amazing what's happening.”

During the interview, the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress told the Late Night host that her approach to the climate change campaign, which has seen Fonda supporting and offering a platform for activists across age demographics — but especially young people — was due to an evolving understanding of what protest and activism requires.

“When I was young, I thought that activism was a sprint,” Fonda said. “You know, if I just go fast enough everything can be fixed really quick. And then I got a little older and I realized that activism is more like a marathon, and I slowed down and learned to pace myself. But now that I'm seriously old, I realized that it's really a relay race. You pass the baton.”

The Grace and Frankie star went on to explain how her new book embodies this approach to multi-generational activism, giving those unfamiliar with protest the tools to get involved and support the larger environmental movement.

"I mean if I was asking, before I went to DC, ‘What can I do?’ I knew that millions of other people are wanting to know ‘What can I do?’ so I wanted this book to be an answer to them,” Fonda told Meyers. “Each chapter...ends with a section called 'What can I do,' and it gives people very tangible things that they can do. At the top of the list is always vote. Make a plan and vote early.”

Watch the segment below.