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After spending much of the pandemic holding virtual rallies urging political action on climate change, Jane Fonda plans to return to Washington D.C. on Friday for her first in-person climate change event in the nation’s capital since the pandemic began.
In fall 2019, Fonda began participating in weekly “Fire Drill Friday” protests in D.C., alongside other climate change activists and celebrity friends. The protests, as well as Fonda’s arrests, generated headlines, as the actress marched around the capital and outlined a number of priorities aimed at decreasing the United States’ reliance on fossil fuels. The in-person rallies were curtailed by the pandemic and Fonda took her activism online for the past several years.
Now, Fonda said she’s decided to return to D.C. to address where climate change advocacy should be directed after this year’s midterm elections. The Democratic control of the Senate came as “a big relief” to Fonda, but she said she’s still concerned about the passage of new measures that could further fossil fuel production, in particular a permitting reform bill from Sen. Joe Manchin.
Fonda anticipates she and her fellow participants won’t be arrested Friday, since rally organizers do not plan to occupy unauthorized areas.
The geographic focus for this rally, as well as the for first six months of 2023, Fonda says, will be the Gulf Coast, an area Fonda says is the “eye of the storm” for fossil fuel development and its impact. Planned speakers Friday include Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council member Jerome Foster. Actresses expected to attend include Taylor Schilling and Saffron Burrows.
Fonda returns to D.C. after wrapping up seven seasons of Grace and Frankie and after revealing a diagnosis of “very treatable” non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about her goals for this protest and how she’s balancing activism with her health and film projects.
Why did you decide to return to in-person protests on Dec. 2?
It’s a new chapter. We’ve just finished a midterm election, which went better than many of us had feared, and we’re about to begin a new year. So we want to pull together people who need to say, “This is what the midterm elections have meant to the climate. This is what the climate movement needs to look like going forward. These are the actions we need to take.” It’s not going to have civil disobedience the way it did in 2019. We just thought it was just too hard to do all that given [what happened on] Jan. 6 , but we’re going to have a New Orleans brass band and a lot of celebrities and some wonderful speakers.
What are your near-term priorities in terms of fighting against climate change?
Well, given that we did not hold the House, what happens in the next two years depends a lot on President Biden. So one of the things we want to demand of him is that he declare an official climate emergency that would unlock a lot of tools that he can use. One is that he can get money from the Pentagon to forward green energy and the grid, electric vehicles, solar panels, things like that. Also, it means that he could again ban the export of U.S. crude oil. We cannot be exporting oil. We have already more developed than we can use to still keep the temperature low enough to avoid a catastrophe.
Ahead of the midterms, you created your own PAC, the Jane Fonda Climate PAC. How are you feeling about its progress?
Fabulous. Years went by and we kept seeing the wonderful legislation that would have moved us much further forward in confronting the climate crisis be defeated, often by moderate Democrats. Why? Because they’re taking money from the fossil fuel industry. So I started a Jane Fonda Climate PAC that is going to give money to people running for office or running for re-election who refuse to take money from the fossil fuel [industry], who will serve people and not big corporations.
Now, because we’re new, we’re not, you know, the Koch brothers. So I focus mostly on down ballot races. But what I discovered to my joy is how much the down ballot races affect the climate. All across the country, these mostly young, mostly women, and very often, Latina, Black women are brave and standing up, and it just filled me with hope and inspiration. It made me so happy.
In September, you disclosed that you had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, while also vowing not to let that interfere with your activism. How has that balance been and how are you feeling?
I don’t feel so good right now. My oncologist told me the further you go into the sessions, the harder it is going to be. Well, I just had my fourth session, and it really hit me hard, and I haven’t quite recovered, but it’ll be fine. It’ll pass.
You’re also balancing new projects, including a new film produced by Tom Brady, ‘80 for Brady,’ about four super fans taking a road trip to see the football star. What inspired you to take that on?
I just thought it would be a very popular, fun movie. It’s based on a true story. I love the story. I love being able to work with Sally Field and Rita Moreno and Lily Tomlin. I mean seven years with [Lily] wasn’t enough. I want more.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
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