Jane Fonda Continues 'Fire Drill Fridays' To Protest Lack Of Action On Climate Change NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with actress Jane Fonda as she protests climate change on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Fonda has been arrested four times for violating demonstration rules.

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Jane Fonda Continues 'Fire Drill Fridays' To Protest Lack Of Action On Climate Change

Jane Fonda Continues 'Fire Drill Fridays' To Protest Lack Of Action On Climate Change

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NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with actress Jane Fonda as she protests climate change on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. Fonda has been arrested four times for violating demonstration rules.


It's not every Friday you can go hang with Jane Fonda as she whips up a crowd...


JANE FONDA: All of us are going to be in the streets, right?


KELLY: ...And leads a protest...


FONDA: All of us are going to put our bodies on the line, right?


KELLY: ...And gets arrested at the U.S. Capitol.


KELLY: Except this fall, it is every Friday. That is Jane Fonda getting arrested today for civil disobedience, fourth week running. The Hollywood icon, lifelong activist now in her 80s, is here in Washington protesting lack of action on climate change. Her plan is to do this 14 weeks in a row - every Friday. She wears bright red. More on that in a sec.

We caught up with her this morning before the big event. Protesters had been told to gather in a Lutheran church across the street from the Capitol. A clipboard on a table by the door instructed people - if you are planning to risk arrest today, please fill out a form.

Well, Fonda worked the crowd, sharing tips. Eat now, she said. You may not get food for a while.

FONDA: What you eat here will have to last you until like 4 or 5.

KELLY: I managed to steer her off to a side room to ask why she's doing this and how exactly she's thinking about reducing her footprint on the planet.

FONDA: I drive an electric car. I recycle. I've cut way back on red meat. Single-use plastics are gone.

KELLY: Yeah.

FONDA: But...

KELLY: Did you fly to get here?


KELLY: Yeah.

FONDA: Yeah. And, you know, you have to sort of weigh. Is it - will I be doing more good to come here and hold these rallies? And, you know, I made the decision that it was more important to come.

KELLY: Of the gazillion things you've protested and that you could be out here protesting, why this one?

FONDA: Well, because this is the one. I mean, this is it. We only have 11 years.

KELLY: Eleven years?

FONDA: Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its report. These are the top climate scientists. And they said, if we are going to turn this around before it's too late - meaning before the whole ecosystem begins to unravel and there's nothing we can do about it - we have 12 years to turn it around. That was last year, so we now have 11 years.

KELLY: You're almost saying we won't have the chance to protest all the other important stuff - women's rights, Native American rights, I'm thinking of things you've protested about in past - if we don't get the climate thing right.

FONDA: Well, there won't be a democracy to worry about. There won't be an economy to try to get stable. I mean, this is the existential crisis. And that word has almost become overused, but, you know, this is it. And if we don't do what's needed, it will be chaos. And you can't have a stable economy in chaos. There will be health pandemics that - there'll be, according to the science, tens of millions of people trying to flee countries that are uninhabitable.

KELLY: So how's it been going? What kind of turnout have you got, these first three? we're now on the fourth Friday. Who's been coming?

FONDA: Well, people have been coming from far wider areas than I would have thought - from Minnesota, from Canada.

KELLY: People are flying in for this?

FONDA: Or driving.

KELLY: Or driving.

FONDA: And bussing and training. But it's like every - seems like everybody in the world knows about this. There's been global press about it. People - women have dressed as me with my red coat for Halloween. I mean, it's...

KELLY: You're wearing this gorgeous, long, sweeping red coat. You wear it every week?

FONDA: It's the last thing I will buy. I bought this on sale because I needed something red. And I'm not going to buy anything more.

KELLY: Why red, by the way? Why not green?

FONDA: Fire. Fire drill. Greta the reason we call it fire drill is because Greta said we have to act like our house is on fire because it is. And I want her to kind of...

KELLY: Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish activist.

FONDA: Yeah. Greta Thunberg is the Swedish student. And so we're the fire drill Friday.

KELLY: Walk me through just these last three Fridays getting arrested.

FONDA: OK. But, you know, first I want to just tell you - I from white privilege. I'm famous on top of that. So everything is going to be very nice and polite. I can't pretend that if I was an unknown black person, it would be the same.

But because of celebrity and white privilege, it's a kind of a ritual. They give you three warnings. And if you don't leave on the third warning, they handcuff you with these white plastic things that hurt more than the metal ones do. You get put into a police wagon.

And the last two times we've been taken to a warehouse. And we're there for - oh, let's see, the last time about four or five hours, processed. And at the end, you know, thumbprinted, pay $50 and leave. Now, I was given a court date because this is my fourth.

KELLY: Today marks your fourth.

FONDA: And I might spend the night in jail tonight because being arrested again before my court date might get me an overnight in jail. But it's - for people who've never been arrested, it's a very profound experience.

KELLY: The prospect of spending a night in jail doesn't scare you, doesn't give you pause at all?

FONDA: I'm 82 years old. And, no, it's very hard to scare me - intimacy maybe but not jail.

KELLY: Jane Fonda, thank you.

FONDA: Well, can I say a few more things?

KELLY: You may.

FONDA: OK. You know, because we are advocating for a Green New Deal - and then people say, oh, my God, it's socialism. And the people who say that who are supporters of the fossil fuel industry, I'll tell you what socialism is. It's American taxpayers supporting, subsidizing the fossil fuel industry. I mean, we are underwriting the very people that are depriving our children of a future. And that is what we should be angry about.

KELLY: The thing with climate changes is it's not like anyone is unaware of it. It's not like there's not a ton of information out there if you want to read up on it. Why do you think it hasn't registered and isn't completely dominating the conversation, as you clearly feel it should be?

FONDA: Well, people know the science, but they don't quite understand how close the tipping point is. I'm a climate activist, and I didn't really realize it. You know, it's true with everything. It was true with the anti-Vietnam War movement. Things go along and they go along and they go along, and then something happens, and it's - things change. Same of the civil rights movement, the women's movement and the LGBTQ movement.

So it's - rather than say and nothing has happened, recognize that a lot has happened. We are building and building and building. And I believe that by next November, we're going to see unprecedented amount of action around climate. I think it's going to be quite astounding what we're going to see happen.

KELLY: Is that really the last coat you're ever going to buy?

FONDA: Not just the last coat. I'm not buying anymore clothes.

KELLY: Period.

FONDA: Period.

KELLY: You've got enough.

FONDA: Yeah. I want to say to people, you know, I grew up at a time when consumerism wasn't - hadn't become this major disease in the United States. And we have to get back to living in balance, not always wanting more. I want a bigger thing than you do. I want a better house than you have. I want a bigger yacht than you have. I want more clothes. No, just enough is enough. Enough is good enough. And I can't say get out of your comfort zone if I haven't done it.

KELLY: Yeah.

FONDA: (Laughter) Right?

KELLY: Yeah.

FONDA: Yeah.

KELLY: Jane Fonda - she is out of her comfort zone tonight. When we last checked with her team, they said she does expect to spend the night in jail and then be arraigned tomorrow at D.C. Superior Court. She told me she'll be back protesting again next Friday.

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